(From left) Rudra Khadka, Arjun Oli and Makar Shrestha.
KATHMANDU, April 27: Journalists Rudra Khadka and Arjun Oli of Republica were awarded the Barbara Adams Investigative Journalism Award 2018 for exposing multi-billion-rupee scam while constructing Sikta Irrigation Project, one of the national pride projects in Banke district.
The award established after Barbara Adams, an acclaimed researcher who was fond of Nepal, is given annually to the best journalists covering issues of corruption and for promoting good governance. The jury picks journalists by assessing impacts of the news published in Nepali media outlets.
Journalist duo Khadka and Oli had exposed how the contractor company, CTCE/Kalika Construction Company, embezzled billions of rupees while constructing the project.
After series of stories were published in Republica on how the construction company embezzled billions of rupees in collusion with politicians and bureaucrats, the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority started investigation into the matter and filed a corruption case at the Special Court. The anti-graft body reached to a conclusion that more than Rs 8.59 billion was embezzled by building sub-standard canal of the Rs 14.70 billion project.
More than 50 investigative news published by the journalist duo had led the anti-graft body to drag 21 individuals including former minister Bikram Pandey and several high-profile bureaucrats to the court. Pandey, who is a contractor by profession, is considered a powerful leader in Nepal's political circle.
Pandey's construction company had constructed the main canal of 42 of the total 45 kilometer canal. But the main canal collapsed while testing. The project was started some 12 years ago with a target of completing it 2019. So far, 56 percent of construction work has been completed whereas the cost of project is expected to rise to Rs 25 billion.
Currently, the case is sub judice at the court.
Apart from holding high-profile bureaucrats, politicians and contractors accountable for their involvement in corruption, the news reports also led the government to blacklist another construction company owned by lawmaker Hari Narayan Rauniyar “Pappu”.
Anuradha Koirala, governor of the Province 3, handed over the award to the journalists amid a recent function.
Altogether 53 applications from different media outlets were submitted to the Foundation for the award. A team of jury led by senior journalist Akhilesh Upadhyay was formed to select the best investigative report for the award. The jury comprising of an economist, a human rights activist and a journalist had selected the reports of Republica journalists as the best investigate reports.
Another report by Makar Shrestha bagged the honorary mention award.