KATHMANDU, Dec 24: Ruling and opposition party MPs have demanded that the government clarify to parliament its controversial decision to extend the lease for Gokarna Forest Resort to the Yeti Group six years prior to the expiry of the current lease.
Addressing the National Assembly on Monday, Nepali Congress lawmaker Radheshyam Adhikari and ruling Nepal Communist Party chief whip Khim Lal Bhattarai also demanded a government clarification concerning its decision to give Nepal Trust land on Durbarmarg to the same business group at far less than the going market rate.
Adhikari said giving such prime land on lease to a private company and making the owner of the same company a trustee of Nepal Trust had raised strong suspicions about the involvement of the prime minister and the deputy prime minister.
Adhikari argued that there was some ill-intention behind an amendment made to the Nepal Trust Act and this could potentially turn out to be a serious case of policy-level corruption.
The government had effected an amendment to the Nepal Trust Act to benefit one particular business group from prime properties belonging to the former royal family.
Lawmaker Adhikari also challenged the government to justify the decision to extend the lease of Gokarna Forest Resort to the same group. Although the previous law prohibited the leasing of Trust property to any private interests, the government had amended the law to benefit the Yeti Group.
The prime minister's remarks about zero tolerance for corruption now sounded hollow, he said.
Pointing out that efforts are reportedly being made to open a restaurant within the premise of the royal palace, Adhikari sarcastically asked the government to let them open a hotel there as well. “Why only a restaurant? Why not lease out the entire Narayanhiti Palace and turn it into a grand hotel?” he asked.
Also addressing the National Assembly Monday, NCP Chief Whip Khim Lal Bhattarai demanded that the government clarify the issue concerning the lease extension for Gokarna Forest Resort. He likewise raised the issue of prime land on Durbarmarg being given to the same business group at far less than the market rate.
Bhattarai said the government is facing criticism from various quarters over these matters. “It is the responsibility of the government to clarify when it lands itself in controversy. I demand that the government clarify ,” he said.
PAC seeks documents from Nepal Trust
Parliament's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has decided to investigate the cases involving land and other property belonging to the Nepal Trust that were provided to the Yeti Group in unwarranted fashion.
Members of the PAC said they have asked the Nepal Trust office to furnish all documents relating to contracts awarded to the Yeti Group and its subsidiaries.
The PAC is concerned that the government brought about an amendment in the Nepal Trust Act in order to pave the way for awarding the lease of Gokarna Forest Resort to business interests and for doing so six years prior to the expiry of the existing lease.
Similarly, the Trust has also given prime land on Durbarmag to the Yeti Group at a throwaway rate and without any competitive bidding.
Serious controversy has arisen after it came to light that the interests of Prime Minister KP Oli himself were involved in these matters. “We have asked the Nepal Trust to furnish all relevant documents for investigations as this involves misappropriation of over Rs 6 billion. We will first study the documents,” said an NC lawmaker on the PAC, Rajendra KC.
KC said all the evidences gathered so far point to a huge embezzlement with the involvement of the prime minister and other ruling party leaders. He took strong exception to the involvement of the prime minister and the deputy prime minister to benefit a business party.
PAC Chairperson Bharat Sah said they are taking the issue seriously. “We will make a thorough study of the documents once we receive them,” he said.