Twisted actionsThe Managing Director of Nepal Oil Corporation, Gopal Khadka, was fired from his post by the government on Monday.
The Managing Director of Nepal Oil Corporation, Gopal Khadka, was fired from his post by the government on Monday. Khadka has been a controversial figure ever since the Sushil Koirala-led government appointed him NOC chief on January 28, 2015. Even as we applaud the removal of Khadka from his post, there are many issues left to be resolved and many questions left unanswered.
Khadka first came into controversy when he signed deals with private third-party petroleum suppliers to supply Nepal with fuel during the Indian economic blockade. Khadka ignored all proper protocols for procurement then, and never answered the question of how fuel supplies from third-parties could reach Nepal given that India had shut down trade along the entire Nepal-India border and major linkages to China had been severed due to the earthquake.
The most recent controversy should have been an open-and-shut case of blatant corruption and subsequent punishment. The NOC came under fire for purchasing overpriced land in four areas, namely Bhairahawa, Sarlahi, Chitwan and Jhapa. Media investigation uncovered Khadka’s embezzlement of around Rs800 million under the guise of the NOC purchasing this land. However, despite public and media uproar, the government failed to take action. Even as the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) investigated Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) officials and harassed NEA chief Kulman Ghising (who was hailed as a hero for bringing down power outage times) in August, they neglected to investigate Khadka’s dealings, despite requests from the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) around the same time.
Khadka’s recent sacking comes after months of outcry and after five different parliamentary committees found him to be guilty of embezzlement and asked the government and the CIAA to take action. Even now, the CIAA investigation into Khadka’s affairs is snail-paced. The government’s decision on Monday comes after Minister of Supplies Shiva Kumar Mandal claimed that Khadka deserved to be fired for non-cooperation, promoting groupism and embezzlement during a Cabinet meeting. A pertinent question at this juncture would be why the government took so long in reaching this verdict, or even proposing it at Cabinet.
The PAC wanted the government to conduct an investigation on all officials accused of embezzlement, with proper charges levelled against the guilty. Simply firing Khadka seems like a way for the government to close the case and shunt it towards the CIAA, which has already dawdled in investigating him. The government should have formed an independent committee of legal and financial experts to assess the case, while suspending Khadka for the interim period. Also, shouldn’t the government focus on repatriating the funds Khadka embezzeled? If Khadka is found guilty of corruption after thorough investigation, he will surely face jail-time. It is now up to the CIAA to conduct a thorough investigation, and urgently, to show that cronyism has not seeped into its halls.