KATHMANDU, March 3: The Election Commission (EC) is set to hand down around two dozen cars which have been in use for a few years to the government for use by the provincial governments. The commission will, however, keep dozens of new vehicles it had bought recently for itself.
Senior EC staffers will keep for themselves all the vehicles gifted by the Indian government during local elections. Ahead of the local elections, Indian government had provided 35 vehicles. Some of the election officials have replaced their old vehicles with the new ones soon after the EC received the new Indian vehicles ahead of May 14 local elections.
"We can provide around 27-28 vehicles to the government. The EC board has not yet to decide about the vehicles so I cannot tell you the exact number of vehicles to be provided to the government," said Joint-Secretary Dipak Subedi, who oversees administrative affairs at the Commission, adding, "I can give you the exact number once the EC makes a decision."
There are around 15 additional vehicles currently in use at the District Election Offices and those vehicles will also be provided to the provincial governments.
Officials say the EC is mulling over setting up provincial election offices so the offices will require at least seven cars and a pickup truck each.
Ahead of the May 14 local elections, India provided seven Scorpio jeeps, four sedans and one Mahindra XUV-500 car to the EC. It also received 35 double-cabin pickups, one minibus, one microbus, 30 Pulsar motorcycles and seven scooters in May.
EC Spokesperson Navaraj Dhakal said the EC is preparing to provide some vehicles to the provincial government at the request of the central government.
"We are aware that there is a shortage of vehicles at the province level. We can definitely provide some vehicles but the number is still unclear," Dhakal said.
When the EC proposed to purchase new vehicles for the election commissioners the election body was widely criticized for purchasing luxurious cars. The move courted controversy as the election body initiated to purchase vehicles despite having enough cars at the office. Luxurious SUVs were purchased while some of the election commissioners already have two or three vehicles.
The Ministry of Finance, which initially rejected the election body's proposal to purchase luxury cars, had later provided Rs 110 million for five SUVs. The then EC secretary Gopinath Mainali was transferred when he protested the commissioners' decision to purchase new vehicles arguing that EC already had enough cars.
Some say these expensive cars were purchased during the election to pocket hefty commissions.
According to retired EC officials five Toyota Land Cruisers had been procured for the commissioners ahead of the 2008 Constituent Assembly elections. Apart from these luxury cars, the EC purchased 73 pickup vans. The pickup vans were distributed to the district election offices and the cars were used by the commissioners.
The commission received new vehicles for the 2013 second CA elections as well. During that time, the UNDP had purchased four Toyota Land Cruisers and two pickups for the commission. Apart from these, the EC purchased five Scorpios jeeps. The Scorpios were distributed to the regional election offices.