NAC in turbulence as disputed figure enters boardroomA number of aviation experts and government officials have questioned the Tourism Ministry’s commitment to good governance at Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) following the decision to appoint a controversial figure at the boardroom of the national flag carrier.
A number of aviation experts and government officials have questioned the Tourism Ministry’s commitment to good governance at Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) following the decision to appoint a controversial figure at the boardroom of the national flag carrier.
Last Friday, at the behest of Tourism Minister Jeeban Bahadur Shahi, former director of NAC Achyut Raj Pahadi was brought back to NAC—this time to play a more critical role of framing policies as an expert at the state-owned airline company.
Pahadi, who was recently appointed as the board director of NAC, has been charged of committing fraud and irregularities during his tenure at the corporation as the head of the engineering department. Some of these cases are still pending.
In 2014, he was even suspended by the NAC board for six months on the charge of embezzling funds by purchasing Boeing 757 tyres unnecessarily and unreasonably. He was also jailed for two weeks in a separate forgery case.
A former board member calls Pahadi’s appointment as an “expert”, “scary”. “He is a man with no history of interest in helping the corporation,” the source, who did not wish to be named, said, adding, “Many like to call him a man mired in scandals.”
His appointment comes at a time when the national flag carrier is set to launch reform measures and wrap up major deals. The corporation recently initiated the process of procuring two wide-body jets, retiring its two Boeing 757s and studying possibility to induct foreign strategic or management partner.
“It is very disappointing. Like in the past, NAC may once again turn into a playground for political parties to serve their vested interest,” said a former managing director of NAC.
Several years ago, Pahadi had slammed the engine of a Twin Otter when he lost his temper, said an NAC official. “The engine became defunct.”
After this incident, many notorious cases related to Pahadi started unfolding one after the other. In 2011, Pahadi, chief of the engineering department of NAC, was arrested on suspicion of swindling 23 Indian nationals with job promise. He was jailed for two weeks.
He had raised hefty amounts from the Indian technicians promising them comfortable jobs at the corporation. Initially, he had denied any involvement and defended that the signatures in the appointment letters, purportedly in his name, were forged.
However, a six-member probe committee of the airline in its report declared Pahadi guilty and recommended stern action against him. “The then NAC’s chairman Manarup Shahi, however, transferred him to reserve pool without taking any action due to his strong political connection,” said a retired NAC official who was the probe committee member. “The case is still pending.”
He is also blamed for inflicting losses of around Rs 150 million to NAC following mysterious disappearance of flyaway kits, landing gear and wheels of Boeing 757 in 2011. A high-level committee formed to investigate a series of controversies at the NAC, including the mysterious disappearance of aircraft parts, had recommended departmental action against 26 officials, including Pahadi.
“This is also a pending case,” said the retired official.
In November 2014, the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority filed a corruption case against Pahadi, on the charge of embezzling state funds by purchasing tyres unnecessarily and unreasonably.
The anti-graft body has accused him of purchasing tyres despite having adequate stock. However, he was given a clean chit by the Special Court on the case.