Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Rabindra Adhikari (center) speaks during a press conference held at the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation in Singha Durbar, Kathmandu, on Monday. Dipesh Shrestha/Republica
KATHMANDU, Jan 8: Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Rabindra Adhikari has denied his involvement in irregularities in procurement of two wide-body jets by Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC).
Organizing a press meet at the ministry on Monday, he argued that all the process in regard to the procurement of wide-body jets was finalized much before he assumed office at the tourism ministry.
“I was dragged into this controversy with an ill intention. Allegations against me are unfair, biased and with prejudices,” he said, adding that he had absolutely no role in the procurement process.
The minister’s response comes five days after a sub-committee under the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) recommended action against him for involvement in irregularities in procurement of wide-body jets.
Adhikari also claimed that he only gave permission for payment of second and third installments to the aircraft supplier as per the law. “If we had not paid the remaining installments, the national flag carrier would have borne loss of Rs 9 billion. It was our responsibility to pay the installment as part of the procurement deal,” he added.
Mentioning that the government has already formed a high-level panel to investigate the alleged irregularities in procurement of wide-body jets, the minister said that he would provide full support the panel to bring truth to the public.
“I believe that those involved in irregularities in the procurement process should be punished. I am ready to support the ongoing investigation for the same,” he said.
Earlier on January 2, the sub-committee of Public Accounts Committee (PAC) concluded that Rs 4.35 billion was embezzled in the purchase of wide-body aircraft by Nepal Airlines Corporation. The report, which was submitted to PAC, found involvement of incumbent Tourism Minister Adhikari as well as two former tourism ministers Jiban Bahadur Shahi and Jitendra Narayan Dev.
The other implicated by the committee were 29 high-level officials including two secretaries – Krishna Prasad Devkota and Shankar Prasad Adhikari, Managing Director of NAC Sugat Ratna Kansakar, and NAC board members.