Jan 5, 2019-With lawmakers from the ruling and opposition parties sharply divided over the report on wide-body aircraft procurement by the Nepal Airlines Corporation, the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee failed to endorse it on Friday.
Saying that the subcommittee’s report was erroneous, ruling party lawmakers demanded revision to the report while those from the opposition Nepali Congress stood for its endorsement without major changes.
After a majority of the committee members stood for revision, the report will be presented at the next meeting scheduled for Monday with some changes.
Sources at the PAC said Home Secretary Prem Kumar Rai, who has been named in the report for immediate suspension, will be removed from the list of officials recommended for action.
Prem Ale, one of the subcommittee members, clarified that they had named Rai based on the papers they had access to which said Rai had initiated the process to purchase old aircraft for the Airlines but it was found later that he had formed a subcommittee to buy new aircraft.
There will be separate paragraphs implicating NAC Managing Director Sugat Ratna Kansakar as the kingpin of the procurement scheme.
Similar actions would be recommended against incumbent Tourism Minister Rabindra Adhikari, and former ministers Jevan Bahadur Shahi and Jitendra Dev.
Nepal Communist Party (NCP) lawmaker Ale said the panel had inquired all those indicted except for secretaries Rai and Shankar Adhikari. He admitted that their failure to quiz Rai and Adhikari was a mistake.
Following widespread criticisms of financial irregularities in purchasing the two Airbus A330 jets, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) had formed a subcommittee headed by Nepali Congress MP Rajan KC to investigate the aircraft purchase deal.
The KC report has held 34 incumbent and former government officials responsible in one of the largest corruption scandals in the country’s history.
It charges Minister Adhikari, Secretary Krishna Prasad Devkota and Kansakar, among others, with misappropriating at least Rs4.35 billion while procuring the planes.
Among them are former tourism ministers Shahi and Dev, who had served in the governments led by Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Sher Bahadur Deuba, respectively, and former aviation secretaries Shankar Prasad Adhikari, Rai and Maheshwor Neupane.
In Friday’s meeting, ruling party lawmakers termed the sub-committee’s report as politically motivated. All PAC members representing the ruling communist party had a unanimous call for revision.
On Thursday, NCP lawmakers represented in the Accounts Committee met with party’s deputy leader Subas Nembang, Chief Whip Dev Prasad Gurung and Whip Shanta Chaudhary to discuss the subcommittee’s report.
Lawmakers including Aman Lal Modi, Surya Pathak, Lekhraj Bhatta and Hridayesh Tripathi were for correcting the report claiming that the principle of natural justice required the changes. They accused that the report was biased in recommending more action against Minister Adhikari than his predecessors.
NC lawmakers including former minister Minendra Rijal pressed for endorsing the report on Friday by correcting the grammatical errors in it. “Our duty is to make recommendations and we are not experts to determine the weight of every individual’s fault,” Rijal said.
Rijal argued that the PAC should forward the report to the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority. He criticised the government for forming the commission to enquire about the procurement
“If the government forms such commission, why do we need bodies like the PAC and the CIAA,” Rijal said.
Published: 05-01-2019 08:10
Source:The Kathmandu Post