KATHMANDU, Aug 31: The Election Commission (EC) has barred the ministers and public position holders from using state-owned helicopters in government businesses during the elections and asked them to seek prior consent of the election body even when they have to use private helicopters.
In a seven-point directive issued to the government, the EC has provided the leverage of using state-owned helicopters only to the prime minister, that too, after seeking the prior consent of the election body. "Now onward, no one except the prime minister can use state-owned choppers. The ministers have to seek the Election Commission's consent even if they have to use rented choppers," said Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Ayodhee Prasad Yadav.
The harsh directive from the election body comes at a time when ministers and their associates were found using helicopters during the recent poll campaigns. The prime minister and ministers uses Nepal Army's helicopters.
Also, they hire private choppers to reach the venues of poll rallies quickly. This means a huge expenditure from the state coffers. Ministers were found using state-owned helicopters or helicopter trips sponsored by the government and government vehicles during the recent local elections.
The EC was criticized for its failure to enforce the election code of conduct mainly when the ministers and leaders of the ruling parties were found involved. Asked whether the directives will be enforced effectively, CEC Yadav said, “Everyone should respect the election code of conduct. We will monitor this seriously."
The EC had barred politicians from using helicopters without its prior consent. Following past precedents, the EC's election code of conduct had banned the use of helicopters and government vehicles even during the recent local elections. EC commissioners, however, were forced to relax such harsh provisions following pressure from the ministers. As a result, ministers had used government vehicles to participate in poll rallies.
A board meeting of the election body on Thursday has also restricted the unnecessary foreign junkets of ministers and political appointees. "Ban the foreign trips of government officials unless when they have to participate in the meetings of international and regional institutions like the UN and SAARC or they have to represent the state in other counties. Prior consent of needs to be sought from the commission such visits," reads the directive.
The EC has also barred the government from making any political appointment in government and semi-government offices and transfer and deputation of the government officials. Similarly, it has asked the government not to allocate budget to irrelevant projects ahead of the elections. It, however, said the government can arrange fund for projects of national pride.