Legal trouble: Lawmakers turn up the heat on NOC’s land purchase dealLawmakers on Wednesday raised their concern regarding Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC)’s controversial land purchase deal, blaming the enterprise for adopting unlawful procedure just to fulfill their vested interest.
Lawmakers on Wednesday raised their concern regarding Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC)’s controversial land purchase deal, blaming the enterprise for adopting unlawful procedure just to fulfill their vested interest. Speaking at the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC), lawmakers demanded a thorough investigation over the issue.
NOC has been alleged with misappropriating funds amounting to Rs800 million while buying land worth Rs1.61 billion in four places: Bhairahawa, Chitwan, Sarlahi and Jhapa. NOC had started the process of purchasing land to build oil storage facilities in all seven provinces following the government’s instruction to maintain fuel stock for at least 90 days.
PAC is the third parliamentary committee that has grilled NOC for being involved in suspicious fraud. The parliamentary committee has hinted at making its own panel to investigate the issue. PAC has come up with the decision at the time when the parliamentary Finance Committee, the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority and the parliamentary Industry, Commerce and Consumer Welfare Committee have already started their own enquiry regarding the controversial land deal.
Speaking at the committee meeting, lawmakers charged NOC for violating the law in the land purchase deal. Instead of following the Land Acquisition Act and Public Procurement Act, NOC had purchased land through the tender process, which is illegal.
According to lawmakers, a public enterprise is not allowed to purchase land via tender process.
Lawmaker Ramhari Khatiwada said NOC deliberately took the process of purchasing land through a middleman rather than dealing with the land owners. “The enterprise underwent through the middleman just to benefit from huge amount of commission from the transaction,” Khatiwada said.
Dimple Kumari Jha, lawmaker elected from Rautahat district, said NOC carried out the land deal in Lalbandi, Sarlahi at an inflated price. “While the cost of land in the location is just Rs300,000 per kattha, the enterprise instead paid Rs961,000,” Jha said.
NOC has been accused of inflating the price of land plots while purchasing them. It has been charged with misappropriation of funds totalling Rs568 million on purchase of land in Chitwan and Jhapa districts alone. Similarly, it has been charged with misappropriating Rs150 million and Rs80 million respectively on purchase of land in Bhairahawa and Sarlahi districts.
Another lawmaker Dhanraj Gurung blamed NOC for misappropriating the fund collected from the money contributed by the general people. “Just for the formality, the enterprise had conducted the bidding process,” said Gurung, expressing his suspicion that the enterprise could have chosen this procedure to gain favour from influential political leaders in the district.
Supplies Minister Shiva Kumar Mandal also expressed his concern over adopting the wrong procedures for purchasing land by the state-owned enterprise. “The ministry will carry out the investigation on possible involvement of NOC’s officials in fraud. It will take action against those who will be found guilty,” Mandal said.
Defending the charge against him, NOC Managing Director Gopal Bahadur Khadka said they had called for the tender as a fast track approach to purchase the land. “Had we gone through the concerned acts, it could have taken many months just to get the land,” Khadka said.