Airbus purchase scandal: House panel goes soft on ministersThe Public Accounts Committee of Parliament seems to have come to the rescue of three tourism ministers while laying the blame on two government secretaries for all that went wrong in the multi-million-dollar Airbus aircraft purchase. It also sought suspension of Nepal Airlines Corporation Managing Director Sugat Ratna Kansakar and stern action against him.
The Public Accounts Committee of Parliament seems to have come to the rescue of three tourism ministers while laying the blame on two government secretaries for all that went wrong in the multi-million-dollar Airbus aircraft purchase. It also sought suspension of Nepal Airlines Corporation Managing Director Sugat Ratna Kansakar and stern action against him.
On Monday, the PAC endorsed a subcommittee’s report, recommending “lawful action” against three ministers—Rabindra Adhikari, Jeevan Bahadur Shahi and Jitendra Dev—on “moral grounds” and seeking action against secretaries Krishna Prasad Devkota and Shankar Prasad Adhikari.
Shahi and Dev served as ministers for tourism and civil aviation prior to Rabindra Adhikari. Devkota is the incumbent secretary at the Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation. Adhikari is a former secretary at the ministry.
The House panel has said the ministers “should take moral responsibility” for failing to take necessary caution.
Earlier, a seven-member subcommittee led by NC lawmaker Rajan KC had recommended action against sitting Tourism Minister Adhikari, accusing him of having an “ill-intentioned collusion” while paying the final instalment without necessary probe into possible irregularities and lying about his consultation with Auditor General Tanka Mani Sharma before releasing the payment. The subcommittee had also directed lawful action against former tourism ministers Shahi and Dev on moral grounds.
After lawmakers from the governing Nepal Communist Party (NCP) warned of not endorsing the sub-panel’s report if Minister Adhikari was indicted, Friday’s meeting of the committee had ended without any decision.
The PAC has claimed that the two secretaries were responsible for all the transactions and accounts of the ministry as they chaired the NAC Board. The committee, however, has acquitted Home Secretary Prem Kumar Rai, who earlier served at the Tourism Ministry, claiming that his name was “erroneously included” in the report.
“Since Prem Rai had only formed a subcommittee as per Clause 236 (1b) of the Financial Bylaws 2065 BS to begin the process of purchasing new aircraft and he was no longer at the helm when the Request for Proposal (RFP) was ready, his involvement in irregularities as per the conditions of the RFP was not found,” states the PAC recommendations and directions issued after Monday’s meeting.
The PAC has recommended that the government and the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) suspend Kansakar and initiate necessary action against him for having a key role in the irregularities while purchasing the wide-body aircraft as per Clause 236 (2) of the Financial Bylaws.
The parliamentary committee has directed the government to suspend Krishna Prasad Devkota, secretary at the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA), for giving continuation to the procurement of old aircraft and paying the final instalment without probe despite the auditor general’s warning that the entire aircraft procurement process was unlawful. It also directed the government and the CIAA to take strict legal action against Devkota on the basis of further investigation. The committee also demands action against former MoCTCA secretary Adhikari.
The parliamentary committee has directed the government to implement its recommendations and present the progress report within a month.
The PAC decided to direct the authorities concerned to probe all the subcommittees formed in connection with the aircraft purchase deal.