Despite public outrage govt okays Rs 140m for 5 SUVs for EC

Published On: July 19, 2017 01:15 AM NPT

KATHMANDU, July 18: Despite a public outcry, the government has given its consent to the Election Commission (EC) to spend Rs 140 million for purchasing five luxury vehicles  for the election commissioners. The Ministry of Finance has mandated the election body to  purchase the SUVs (sports utility vehicles) as capital expenditure and report  to the ministry later. 

"Previously, we had refused to release  money for purchasing the vehicles since it was not possible to execute the entire procurement process within such a short span of time," said Kewal Bhandari, chief of the ministry's Budget and Programs Division, adding, "For this once, they can buy the  vehicles under capital expenditure." 

Joint-Secretary Deepak Subedi, who oversees logistics at the EC, confirmed the ministry's consent for purchasing the vehicles.  "We already have  the consent of the government. The vehicle purchase  will go ahead as planned," he said. 
The Ministry, however, has not allocated any money in its annual budget for a new fleet of cars for President Bidya Devi Bhandari. Finance Ministry officials said no budget was allocated for the president's new vehicles in the government's annual budget as no formal proposal came from the Defense Ministry.  The army has  logistics responsibility for the president's  movements.

Earlier, the election commissioners' bid to purchase new vehicles was halted after the ministry said no budget had been allocated for the purpose in fiscal year 2073-074.  The election body's vehicle controversy saga  surfaced just before the last  fiscal year ended. Commissioners had mounted pressures on then ECsecretary Gopinath Mainali to include the vehicles under the election materials head and begin the  procurement process. But this would be  against the election regulations. 

Secretary Mainali was transferred from the EC after he refused to comply. Maheshwor Neupane was  named  acting election secretary soon after Mainali was transferred to the Office of the Prime Minister. Neupane then approached the ministry to allocate a budget for the new vehicles. 

The  EC's vehicle procurement bid has drawn flak from all walks of life because some of the election commissioners already have two vehicles each. 

The election commissioners, however, have been saying that the vehicles they are using are too old. 

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