Supplies ministry reluctant to investigate NOC land scam

Published On: August 31, 2017 06:47 AM NPT By: Dilip Paudel

KATHMANDU, Aug 30 :The Ministry of Supplies (MoS) appears to be reluctant to initiate investigation into the Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC)’s land purchase scam despite separate calls from the Prime Minister’s Office and two parliamentary committees to probe into the multi-billion deal. 

The Public Accounts Committee and the Industries, Commerce and Supplies Committee of the legislature parliament had separately unearthed evidences of huge embezzlement in the land scam and asked the Ministry of Supplies, the line ministry, to probe into the case. 

Lawmakers involved in the field investigation have claimed that up to Rs 1.5 billion was embezzled while buying land plots for the NOC in Chitwan, Jhapa, Rupandehi and Sarhali districts. The lands were bought to set up fuel storage facilities for the state-run old distributor. 
PAC Chair Dor Prasad Upadhyay said that the reluctance of the minister for supplies and MoS secretary to begin probe into the land scam has raised serious questions. 
“The silence of the supplies minister and secretary has raised serious question about their role. Why are they silent? They should answer,” said Upadhayay, adding that the committee was preparing to summon the concerned officials. 

On July 27, the PAC had written a letter to the Commission for the Investigation of the Abuse of Authority (CIAA) requesting the anti-graft body to start investigation into the case. A copy of the letter was also attached to the Ministry of Supplies.  There has been little progress in the case. 

CIAA spokesperson Jibraj Koirala said that the anti-graft body is studying the case. 
“We are carrying result-oriented investigation in multiple stages,” said Koirala, adding that they have found some discrepancies in the land deal. 

 In its report, the PAC had mentioned that the NOC had purchased the land through middlemen, not directly from the land owners, breaching the standard norms and principle of the bidding process.

Following reports of irregularities, the PMO had separately directed the supplies ministry to investigate and submit report on the land deal within 15 days.  A file pertaining to the land deal prepared by Supplies Secretary Prem Kumar Rai is reportedly stuck at the office of the Minister for Supplies Shiva Kumar Mandal. Last week, Minister Mandal had dismissed the possibility of investigation saying the land scam did not fall under the jurisdiction of his ministry. 

Talking to reporters in Biratnagar on Wednesday, Minister Mandal said that his ministry was gathering evidences. He, however, defended the deal saying that the NOC had followed due procedures. 

“The NOC has tax invoice of the purchase and bills of the money paid to the land owners,” said Mandal, claiming that the NOC had followed due legal process while purchasing the plots of land. 

 NOC Managing Director Gopal Khadka, who is the main person behind the land deal, has denied reports of corruption. Earlier this month, Khadka, who is a relative of CIAA Chief Deep Basnyat, and is believed to be close to leaders of major parties, reportedly told journalists that their “articles written in bold letters” would not make any difference to him.

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