KATHMANDU, June 1: The probe panel formed to investigate alleged irregularities in the purchase of two wide-body aircraft for Nepal Airlines Corporation has turned defunct without even getting started. It was mandated to complete its work within 45 days, but that was five months ago.
Members of the judicial committee headed by former appellate court chief judge Govinda Prasad Parajuli said they haven’t even received a letter from the government giving them the mandate to investigate the matter although they were informed verbally about the committee formation and their own selection.
“The wide-body probe has ended without even getting started. The government announced the formation of the committee but we were never informed nor assigned our task in writing,” said Parajuli, adding, “So, the panel has already turned dysfunctional without even starting its work.”
Another panel member, Narendra Pathak, also said the panel formed in January has already turned dysfunctional although it was supposed to complete its investigations within 45 days.
“Probe never got started. I learnt about its formation through the newspapers. But I don’t think anything has been done so far,” added Pathak.
Apart from Parajuli and Pathak, chartered accountant Madan Sharma was another member of the probe panel.
The Parajuli commission was formed on January 4, a day after a sub-committee of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of parliament recommended action against 29 top officials including then tourism minister Rabindra Adhikari and former tourism ministers Jiban Bahadur Shahi and Jitendra Narayan Dev.
The sub-committee headed by Rajan Kumar KC had concluded that Rs 4.35 billion had been embezzled while purchasing the two wide-body aircraft.
The Parajuli committee was formed at a time when the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) was also investigating the matter and the parliamentary panel had already concluded there were irregularities amounting to billions.
Top politicians including the former prime minister and Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba were alleged to be involved in the scam.
When the government formed the judicial committee it was seen as an attempt to derail independent investigations and deflect mounting pressure on the political leadership from the public and civil society.
As of now, the anti-graft body has not implicated any of the politicians and bureaucrats accused in the multi-billion rupees scam, saying investigations are ongoing.