KATHMANDU, June 14: At least 15 Everest liaison officers deployed for this year's spring climbing season pocketed their allowances without even reaching base camp, the Department of Tourism has disclosed.
The department said on Thursday that of the total 37 liaison officers deployed by the government for Everest expeditions only 22 reached Everest Base Camp. The remaining liaison officers, according to the department, didn't carry out their given assignments although they pocketed the trekking and daily allowances.
It's not clear how many liaisons were at base camp when the climbing season ended.
Upon his arrival back in Kathmandu after climbing Everest for a record 24 times, Kami Rita Sherpa had expressed serious dissatisfaction over lax government regulations. He said the absence of liaison officers at base camp was one of the reasons behind the worst ever crowding on Everest this year.
Sherpa had said only liaison Gyanendra Shrestha was stationed at Everest Base Camp when he descended to it although 50 liaisons were said to be deployed for the Everest region.
A source at the department complained that staff with connections-- to the Office of the Prime Minister, the Office of the President and the like-- put pressure on the director general of the department to appoint them as liaison officers. They then pocket the allowances without even reaching base camp . They produce their reports for the department on the basis of reports compiled by expedition companies for their own use.
Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli was questioned by a BBC World Service journalist during his visit to United Kingdom this week regarding the absence of liaison officers at base camp and overcrowding on Everest. Oli said if there was any overcrowding it was only because of the narrow window of favorable weather.
The tourism department disclosed the discrepancies after it was accused of failing to handle the overcrowding on Everest. It also came out that some climbers were included in the list of successful Everest climbers although they did not reach the summit.
“I want to clarify that a review committee on policy and structural and procedural aspects will investigate matters ,” said Danduraj Ghimire, director general of the department.
The department also said most climbers returned without reaching base camp due to altitude sickness and other complications.
Bishwa Bandhu Regmi, a liaison officer, has been dragged into controversy after he recommended summit climb certificates to climbers who had turned back after only reaching Camp III.
Indian nationals Vikas Rana, Shobha Banwala and Ankush Kasana had only reached Camp III before abandoning their climb on May 26. Regmi, however, had recommended to the department to provide them certificates of having reached the summit of Everest.