KATHMANDU, Nov 14: Violating Parliamentary Finance Committee's strict directive against providing more than Rs 1.5 million for medical treatment of VVIPs and VIPs, the government has decided bear up to Rs 5 million in medical expenses of former Deputy Prime Minister and central leader of Nepali Congress (NC) Sujata Koirala, who is suffering from breast cancer.
A cabinet meeting held at Singha Durbar on Sunday has decided to bear up to Rs 5 million in medical expenses for Koirala, admitted a minister, who did not want to be named fearing widespread criticism from the public.
People from various quarters had sharply criticized Koirala after it was reported that she sought Rs 10 million from the government for her treatment. Following the cabinet decision, social media have been flooded with criticism over the decision.
Although the cabinet decided to bear the medical expenses of Koirala, ministers have declined to officially comment on the decision. When Minister for Information and Communication Surendra Kumar Karki was asked about the decision during the press briefing after the cabinet meeting, he said he was unaware of the decision. “The issue was not discussed at the meeting,” he told reporters.
However, several ministers confirmed that the cabinet has decided to bear medical expenses up to Rs 5 million of Koirala.
After the government provided money to VIPs and VVIPs in the name of covering their medical expenses taking benefit of the loopholes in the “Working Procedures Related to Citizens Relief, Compensation and Financial Support, 2071”, the parliamentary panel had strictly directed the government to amend the procedure.
On September 15, a meeting of the panel had asked the government to amend the procedures to remove the loopholes and not pay more than Rs 1.5 million for the treatment of VIPs or VVIPs.
The working procedures allow the government to provide additional funds for some 'powerful people' through cabinet decision under 'special circumstances'. The parliamentary panel had instructed the government to remove such provision from the working procedures.
Following the panel's instruction, the Ministry of Health had even forwarded the amended draft of the procedure to the cabinet for endorsement. The draft was expected to be endorsed by the cabinet at Sunday's meeting. But the cabinet meeting did not endorse the procedure as endorsing it would have barred the government from making the decision in Koirala's favor.
After Health Minister Gagan Thapa strongly objected against covering medical expenses beyond Rs 1.5 million, the maximum ceiling, as stated in the procedure, Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Bimalendra Nidhi took the proposal to the cabinet for endorsement.
Thapa was not present during Sunday's cabinet meeting.
Earlier, senior leaders including former president Ram Baran Yadav and former prime ministers KP Oli, Jhalanath Khanal and Sushil Koirala were provided more than Rs 10 million each for medical treatment.
Meanwhile, the cabinet has decided to allocate 111,685 US dollars to reinstate the office of the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific, which was displaced after the devastating earthquakes last year.