Finance ministry set to dole out Rs 85m to Sajha Prakashan

Published On: December 4, 2018 07:52 AM NPT

KATHMANDU, Dec 4: The Ministry of Finance (MoF) is reportedly preparing to dole out Rs 85 million to Sajha Prakashan, the government-owned publishing house which has been reeling under a series of controversies of massive irregularities for the past one decade.

According to the members of Sajha Management Board, the MoF and the Ministry of Land Management, Cooperatives and Poverty Alleviation -  the line ministry of Sajha Prakashan - reached an agreement on November 20 to provide Rs 85 million to the public publishing house. “The agreement was reached to pay those who had retired from Sajha but were yet to be paid their salaries for several months,” said a board member.

The retired Sajha officials have been staging protests since July 17 this year, demanding that 128 former Sajha employees who had retired without getting the salaries, perks and allowances for the last two years of their service be paid the same without delay. About Rs 171.6 million is needed to pay the retired officials, according to Sajha Prakashan.

This is not the first time the government has ‘bailed out’ the controversy-ridden Sajha. In the second week of December 2016, the then Pushpa Kamal Dahal-led government had decided to provide Rs 300 million, including  100 million in grants, to  Sajha Prakashan, against a demand for Rs 400 million. 

Though the government has had to come to the rescue of Sajha many times, there have been several incidents of massive irregularities at the 105-year old publishing house in the last decade. The Office of Auditor General, too, has mentioned in its 2018 report that irregularities were rampant at Sajha Prakashan.

The Ministry of Education, the then line ministry of Sajha, had sacked Dolindra Prasad Sharma, the general manager and former chairman of Sajha Prakashan on September 24, 2017, on the charge of multiple irregularities. However, the Supreme Court stayed the ministry’s decision on November 1, 2017. 

However, according to officials at Sajha, Sharma has not been seen in his office during office hours since September 13 “owing to his bad reputation and the protests by the retired officials.” 

“He had come on September 31, guarded by a police team, but soon left. On October 1, he came to the office at around 6:30 am and signed the attendance register for absent days but the staffers of Sajha Prakashan smudged his signatures on the attendance register,” a Sajha official said.

Not a single meeting of Sajha Board has taken place since May. Minister for Land Management, Cooperatives and Poverty Alleviation Padma Kumari Aryal appointed three members and chairperson of Sajha Prakashan two months ago. Raghu Ram Bista, joint-secretary at the ministry was appointed the chairman of Sajha while Ram Kumar Shrestha alias Ram Binaya, Gayatri Lamsal and Mohan Duwal were nominated as the board members. 

Lamsal is reported to be the wife of Minister Aryal’s personal secretary at the ministry. 

Minister Aryal did not respond to Republica’s queries when contacted saying she had to prepare for her flight to Dhangadhi on Monday evening. Sharma, too, was unavailable for comments.

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