KATHMANDU, Oct 12: Jhalanath Khanal Foundation’s Antivenom Production and Research Center Nepal has been found spending a large sum of money on purchasing luxurious items instead of mobilizing the fund to produce antivenom.
The documents received by Republica show that the foundation has spent funds--meant for producing antivenom--on purchasing luxurious items, including motorbikes, vehicles, mobile phones, electronic items, among others.
The Center has already purchased a vehicle worth Rs 4.9 million. The document also shows that the Foundation has already spent Rs 1.4 million on electronic items, Rs 1.3 million on office instruments, and one million rupees on hire purchase.
Of the total Rs 178 million received from Lalbandi Municipality, the Foundation has spent the money on the purchase of luxurious items and on administrative activities.
The Foundation has spent Rs 341,090 on vehicle repairs, Rs 31,078 on mobile phones, Rs 360,498 on ACs, and Rs 312,000 on cameras.
The Foundation has also spent a large sum of money on furniture and furnishing. The document shows the organization has already spent Rs 1.9 million on furniture and furnishing.
When asked about the expenses, Rebati Panta, the Antivenom Center president, told Republica that the fund has not been misused. “The sole aim of the center is to produce antivenom. The center first needs to set up an office. We have purchased goods at the cheapest price possible,” he claimed.
The organization, established by ruling Nepal Communist Party leader Jhala Nath Khanal, has received a pledge of Rs 720 million from the federal government for antivenom production.
The federal, provincial, and local governments have pledged millions to Khanal’s Foundation at Lalbandi Municipality in Sarlahi.
“The 720 million rupees pledged by the federal government will be deposited in the center’s account in installments over a five-year period,” said Panta, also claiming that the Center has only hired people that are needed for the works. “The money has not been distributed to party cadres. The sole aim of the center is to reduce human deaths from snake bites.”
The Center received Rs 18.5 million from the government to set up its office and build infrastructures over the last five years. But the officials at the Center claim that the amount has been spent on research and on field visits, without offering evidence. The Foundation’s claim to produce antivenom has been in the news for many years. However, no substantial work has been carried out on the ground. But millions of taxpayers' money has been ‘spent’ on the project.
Established in 2014, the Foundation purportedly plans to export antivenom to India and to international markets. The decision to award a huge sum of money to a private foundation has come under heavy public criticism.
Panta also claims that the Center can’t misuse the funds as the spending is closely monitored by the government. “All the items have been purchased after an approval from the local government,” he said, adding that the Center will be run by the government after it starts producing antivenom.
“Though the Center is run by the Foundation, it has to get approval from the government to spend the money. All our spending is transparent,” claimed Panta.