After decades-long mismanagement, politicization, opaque deals and corruption, a crucial organization of the country, Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC), stands at the crossroads. The NAC has now been badly mired in a controversy over purchasing two wide-body aircraft allegedly by not following proper procurement process transparently. As Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation as well as NAC management have been criticized for failing to make things clear, the Public Procurement Monitoring Office (PPMO) too has said it has found some irregularities in the process of buying the aircraft. Also, two parliamentary committees—Public Accounts Committee and the International Relations Committee—have started probing the controversies surrounding the aircraft procurement. As state-owned airline company courts serious controversy over a deal of billions of rupees spent from the state coffers, we believe the Parliament is the right place to probe into this and come up with right solutions.
The International Relations Committee has already formed a sub-committee to look into legal as well as other aspects of the deal with the international company while the PAC seems to be more focused on its financial and procurement process. The latter sought support of the PPMO and has received a report from the office. As the two parliamentary committees start investigating into the irregularities, we can recall the best as well as the worst cases handled by various parliamentary committees in the past. In some cases, certain committees have quite rigorously investigated the issues and come up with appropriate solutions whereas some others have further complicated the situation. In some cases members of the committee have even abused their authority by using such cases to blackmail the officials. Politicization of the matter is another likely scenario. We urge lawmakers to understand the gravity of the matter, conduct in-depth study and not resort to any lowly approach while dealing with such a serious case.
As of now, Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Rabindra Adhikari, and top officials of the ministry as well as the NAC management have failed to give convincing answers to the questions raised by the lawmakers. They must come clean on procurement process with concrete documents and help the legislature in investigation. Parliamentary committees should conduct an in-depth study on mismanagement and corruption that has plagued NAC for decades and come up with appropriate solutions to rescue the national flag carrier. Now the government has been working on a draft to amend certain provisions of Public Procurement Act. This can be the right time for the legislature to pinpoint lapses in our procurement process and give clear policy guidelines for making transparent deals in the days to come. A wrong conclusion, inappropriate decision as well as wrong direction from the parliament will ultimately mislead the organization and further complicate the situation. As things stand, NAC is at the crossroads. If this crucial public entity is given right direction it can contribute to national economy. If the present situation isn’t properly handled, it might even put the future of NAC at risk.