KATHMANDU, Oct 5: Minister for Communication and Information Technology Gokul Baskota has undermined parliament's Development and Technology Committee's decision-making process as he forced the committee members to change a decision taken by the committee at its meeting on Thursday.
The minister interfered in the committee's decision to direct the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology to appoint the managing director at Nepal Telecom through open competition at the earliest.
The parliamentary committee had to revise the decision following the minister's direct interference in spite of the fact that some committee members had strongly objected to the change in decision following the minister's interference.
Minister Baskota, Secretary Mahendra Man Gurung and Nepal Telecommunication Authority (NTA) Chairman Digambar Jha were invited at the committee meeting to discuss about quality improvement in telecommunications in Nepal.
When Chairperson Kalyani Khadka after a two-hour discussion in the presence of the minister and other officials, floated the proposal to direct the ministry to appoint the MD at NTC through open competition, the minister immediately expressed his objection and demanded to correct it.
Chairperson Khadka proposed to direct the ministry to appoint the MD of NTC at the earliest through open competition, to improve technical, managerial and administrative aspects and to select a strategic partner for improvement in the telecom service. But interrupting Khadka, Minister Baskota said he had objections over the decision of the committee. “Chairperson, I have objection over the decision of the committee. This is being taken without a basic knowledge about NTC. We always appoint the MD through open competition,” the minister said. “The committee discussed one issue and took a decision about another. I wonder who drafts such decisions.”
Following objections by the minister , Chairperson Khadka changed the language of the direction given to the ministry. The parliamentary committee, which is also known as a mini parliament, removed its decision to direct the ministry to appoint the MD through open competition. It asked the ministry to start the operations of the newly-installed BTS towers at earliest.
Earlier, the committee had taken the decision as some lawmakers raised questions as to on what ground the government had sacked Kamini Rajbhandari from the post of MD at NTC.
Main opposition Nepali Congress lawmakers Jip Tshiring Lama, Rangamati Shahi and Rastriya Janata Party Nepal lawmaker Mahendra Raya Yadav demanded another meeting of the committee soon, accusing the minister of insulting the parliamentary panel. But Chairperson Khadka deferred the committee meeting until further notice, ignoring their demands.
Parliamentary committees have a general practice of taking their decisions only after concluding the meeting with the minster and other invitees in advance. And they take the decisions only after they leave the committee meeting.
But Khadka didn't bid the minister and other invitees adieu before taking the decision and that resulted in the minister's inference in its decision.
Parliamentary regulations clearly mention that the responsibility of thematic committees will be to oversee government activities, make the government accountable to the legislature and direct the government over necessary issues.
Meanwhile, the committee has decided to direct the Communication and Information Technology Ministry to furnish within 15 days detailed reasons and bases for the reappointment of Digambar Jha as chairman of NTA . Lawmakers Jip Tsering Lama and Yagya Raj Sunuwar had questioned the re-appointment of Jha at the helm of the telecom regulatory body amid controversy.
“What is the reason behind the reappointment of Jha at the NTA, who was sacked by the ministry after an internal investigation report. What is the reason behind his withdrawal of a case he filed against his sacking and his reappointment immediately after the move?” Lama asked. Sunuwar also demanded in detail the bases for Jha's reappointment, citing questions from the public and media.
In response Minister Baskota informed that Jha's appointment was made in line with constitutional and legal, procedures. “We have completed all the procedures. We are not fishing in troubled waters,” said Baskota.
During the discussion Minister Baskota flayed the media for reporting critically about the government decision. “One prestigious media accused me of taking Rs 200 million. If you need money please come visit me, if not stop defaming me,” said the minister indicating media reports during the reappointment of Jha at NTA. Claiming that he also holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and knows what is news and what are views, Baskota come down heavily on media for criticizing the decision to ban porn sites.
“I have worked to hike the salaries of journalists amid pressure from corporate houses. I am sure journalists don't publish such news. They don't even report about lawmakers' concern for the plight of working journalists ,” he said. Minister Baskota further accused media of treating him and the government like criminals and said that media only publish that the minister has been sleeping and doing nothing. “I am also from a journalism background, so such media reports don't affect me,” he further said.