MPs, party honchos pocket funds meant for hiring PAs, chauffers

Published On: November 6, 2018 10:00 AM NPT By: Ashok Dahal  | @ashokpillar

Height of moral deficiency, says ex-chief secretary Koirala

KATHMANDU, Nov 6: Senior leaders and heads of various parliamentary committees are found to be exploiting legal loopholes to pocket the money meant for hiring personal chauffeurs. Some lawmakers are also found to be drawing the salaries meant for personal assistants (PA) and submitting details of fake individuals to the parliament secretariat. 

Most parliamentary party leaders of the major political parties and the chief whips, whips and chairpersons of most house panels have been found pocketing at least Rs 18,340 as the salary of a non-existent personal driver. 

They hire only one driver even though each of them receives the salaries for two drivers from the government. The parliament secretariat deposits Rs 36,680 a month in the personal bank account of the office-bearer for hiring two drivers. The secretariat doesn’t verify if a lawmaker actually hires two drivers or not. 

The lawmakers have also tweaked the law in their own favor, allowing them to be paid the salaries of their drivers and personal secretaries in their own bank accounts, instead of making it mandatory to pay the amounts into the accounts of the driver or PA concerned.

Many lawmakers have not submitted any information about their personal secretaries to the parliament secretariat. “That means those lawmakers pocket the salaries meant for their personal secretaries also, because such salaries also are deposited in the lawmakers’ personal accounts,” said a senior official at the parliament secretariat.

Parliamentary committee heads and leaders do not need to furnish any details about their drivers and their salaries to the government. Of the 16 parliamentary committee heads, only two are found to be hiring two drivers each. Likewise even senior leaders of the ruling and opposition political parties, who are provided vehicles and drivers in their capacity as parliamentary party leaders, as well as chief whips and whips, have been found to be hiring a single driver each. 

The speaker and deputy speaker of the lower house, the chairperson and vice chairperson of the upper house, the leader of the main opposition party in the lower house, the leaders of the ruling and main opposition parties in the upper house, the chief whips and whips of the ruling and main opposition parties and the parliamentary committee heads are defined as office bearers.

Ruling Nepal Communist Party Parliamentary Party Leader for the upper house Dinanath Sharma, Chief Whip Khimlal Bhattarai, lower house Whip Shanta Chaudhary, main opposition Nepali Congress (NC) lower house Chief Whip Bal Krishna Khand, NC Whip Pushpa Bhusal, upper house Parliamentary Party Leader Surendra Pandey, Chief Whip Sarita Prasain of the NC and Chief Whip of Federal Socialist Forum Nepal Uma Shankar Agariya have been found pocketing the salaries of at least one driver while drawing salaries for two. 

NC leader Khand, who is also a former defense minister, has been using personnel assigned to his security as drivers instead of hiring bonafide drivers. This means he is pocketing the salaries of two drivers allowed him as chief whip.

Similarly, the heads of various parliamentary panels including Nira Devi Jairu, Pabitra Niraula, Krishna P Dahal, Khimlal Bhattarai, Sarita Prasain, Bharat Kumar Shah, Ram Narayan Bidari, Tara Devi Bhatta, Dil Kumari Rawal, Jaipuri Gharti, Kalyani Khadka, Niru Pal and Parshu Meghi Gurung have also hired a single driver each while drawing salaries for two. 

Sources said Chairman of the Law and Human Rights Committee Krishna Bhakta Pokharel is making a policeman double as his driver.

With few exceptions, those hiring drivers don’t pay more than Rs 18,340 per driver. “I didn’t know that committee chairpersons are drawing the salaries of two drivers. It would be easier for us if she had hired a second driver as well,” said Lalit Roka, the driver for Jaipuri Gharti. The drivers complain of being exploited for up to 15 to 16 hours a day and are kept in the dark about the salaries for two drivers. Only Shashi Shrestha and Purna Kumari Subedi have hired two drivers each. 

Among party office bearers in parliament, NCP Chief Whip for the lower house Dev Gurung is alone in hiring two drivers.

NCP Chief Whip Bhattarai claimed that he couldn’t find a second experienced driver to hire. “We have yet to give full shape to our secretariat. I am actually looking for a second driver. I will appoint one soon,” he told Republica. 

Former chief secretary Bimal Prasad Koirala said this is an ethical question for lawmakers. “It is the height of moral deficiency on the part of our lawmakers,” he said.

Spokesperson at the parliament secretariat Rojnath Pandey said the secretariat doesn’t seek any details about MPs’ drivers and personal secretaries. “We deposit the salaries for personal secretaries and drivers and allowances in a lump sum along with the salaries of the lawmakers in the latters’ bank accounts. They are free to hire their drivers and personal secretaries,” said Pandey.

Perks law fast-tracked
Lawmakers had introduced the law on perks and facilities for members of parliament and office bearers through a fast-track process, suspending the rules for deliberations, two years ago. 
The law has a provision for providing two drivers for the office bearers, a personal secretary and some other expenses.

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