Panel implicates 3 ministers, 29 top officials in wide-body scam

Published On: January 3, 2019 07:45 AM NPT By: Republica

KATHMANDU, Jan 3: The sub-committee of parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has concluded that Rs 4.35 billion was embezzled in the purchase of wide-body aircraft by Nepal Airlines Corporation. The report submitted to the full committee found the involvement of Tourism Minister Rabindra Adhikari and two former ministers, Jiban Bahadur Shahi and Jitendra Narayan Dev, behind the scam. 

The other implicated are 29 high-level officials including three secretaries—Krishna Prasad Devkota, Shankar Prasad Adhikari and Prem Kumar Rai, Managing Director of NAC Sugat Ratna Kansakar, and NAC board members. 

Sub-committee coordinator Rajendra KC submitted the report to PAC chair Bharat Shah at a full committee meeting on Wednesday. KC read out the recommendations to take action against those named. 

According to the report, then minister Shahi had failed to issue proper directions to exercise caution although the secretary at his ministry chaired the NAC board that took the decision to purchase the two wide-body planes for Rs 25 billion. “Shahi as the then tourism minister failed to exercise caution and direct that advance payment for the aircraft be halted, and is morally responsible over the issue. PAC should direct the CIAA to take action against him,” the report reads.

Likewise, the report has said that then minister Jitendra Dev had allowed a secretary-level decision to pay the first installment for the aircraft purchase to Hi Fly X, a company based in Ireland, thereby ignoring that the agreement was against the law. 

In the case of incumbent Tourism Minister Adhikari, the sub-committee report has mentioned that Adhikari ignored the 55th annual report of the Office of the Auditor General. “The 55th audit report of the OAG issued in April 2018 clearly stated that procurement laws were breached in the purchase of the two aircraft. However, disregarding the report, Adhikari directed the payment of the final installment to the company instead of going for an in-depth investigation of financial embezzlement,” the report further reads.

Likewise, the report has also said that Minister Adhikari formed a probe committee that included the same individuals involved in the procurement process. The probe committee formed by Adhikari was just a formality rather than being meant for getting to the truth, it is stated. Furthermore, the report has mentioned that Adhikari had provided the wrong information that he had had informal discussions with the OAG before making the final payment. “OAG itself has denied having discussions with the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation regarding the aircraft procurement,” the report added.

Besides ministers, the sub-committee has also concluded that tourism secretaries including incumbent Krishna Prasad Devkota were involved in the corruption in their capacity as chairs of the NAC board. The other secretaries implicated in the report are Prem Kumar Rai, who is now home secretary, while Shankar Prasad Adhikari has already retired. The three have been accused of abuse of authority and corruption in the aircraft procurement. Likewise, the sub-committee has also recommended action against NAC Managing Director Kansakar.

“PAC should direct the bodies concerned to take strict action against the incumbent and former secretaries and the NAC managing director for abusing authority and corruption,” the report said. Likewise, NAC board members, procurement sub-committee members and other officials involved in the procurement process are also to face the music.

The PAC had formed the seven-member sub-committee on December 12, 2018 for further investigating the procurement. 

I am innocent: Minister Adhikari 
KATHMANDU, Dec 3: Responding to the report of the sub-committee, Civil Aviation Minister Rabindra Adhikarihas claimedd that he is innocent and he had no involvement in the wide-body procurement. Talking to Republica,Adhikari claimedd that he is not involved in any process in the aircraft procurement as it had already been effected before he took over the ministry. He said that he had just formally welcomed the aircraft when they arrived. “The final report of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) may show that I am not involved in the wide-body procurement scam,” he said.


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