KATHMANDU, July 24: Government officials have suspected foul play in the recent government decision to release money from the frozen accounts of the transport committees to allow the transport operators to pay their liabilities.
The transport committees across the country are technically defunct with the government’s refusal to renew them arguing that they should be registered under the Companies Act.
Officials at the ministry of physical infrastructure and transportation privy to the development said the government decision may result in the transport committees eventually withdrawing all the money from the bank accounts under the pretext of paying their financial liabilities.
“Legally speaking, with the decision not to renew registration of the transport committees, all the transport committees have automatically become invalid and all their properties have become the government’s property. So, it is against the law to allow the committees which have no legal status to use their bank accounts,” said a top official of the ministry, who did not want to named.
The official accused Transport Minister Raghubir Mahaseth of including the provision in the decision made by a joint meeting of the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transportation held on July 16 in order to allow transport operators to take back their money from the bank accounts before the government formally brings all their properties under its ownership.
The district administration offices have issued a 35-day notice to transport operators to submit the details of their financial liabilities to various parties including road accident victims, public utilities, and administrative expenses among others.
After studying the details, the government will ask the Nepal Rastra Bank to allow the transport committees to withdraw enough money from their frozen bank accounts to make the payments.
“Some committees like Paschimanchal Bus Service, Mahakali Seti Transport Entrepreneurs’ Committee and Narayani Transportation Entrepreneurs Association have huge amounts of money in their bank accounts. The latest development indicates that Minister Mahaseth might have received some kickbacks for allowing these committees to withdraw money from their accounts,” the official said.
In May, the government had frozen the bank accounts of all the 245 transport committees. Later, the home ministry had even collected details of movable and immovable assets owned by such committees across the country with the help of the district administration offices. However, even as of now, the transportation ministry has not made any effort to make public the total amount of money and other properties of such committees.
Some insiders smell a rat over the ministry’s indifference to make any effort to publicize the properties of the committees.
“If the property details are made public, it would have further exposed transport operators and this wouldn’t allow misuse of the money in the name of paying their liabilities. But the ministry wants to delay the process to protect those operators and allow them to take back their money,” said another official at the ministry.
Spokesperson of the ministry Rajendra Raj Sharma said that he does not know why the ministry has not made public the property details of the transport committees even though it should have been made public. He, however, said that there was no chance of foul play as the government will allow the transport operators to withdraw only the amount of money necessary to pay their financial liabilities.