Finance Minister Sharma resignsResignation follows formation of an 11-member parliamentary probe committee.
Finance Minister Janardan Sharma resigned on Wednesday after public outcry and widespread criticism following charges that he had employed two unathorised persons to tweak tax rates on May 28, a day before he presented the budget for the next fiscal year.
He has been charged with breaching the budgetary discipline, which experts say amounts to financial crime.
“While I fully refute allegations against me, I have decided to cooperate in the investigation,” said Sharma in his address to Parliament. “I announce my resignation to facilitate the probe process.”
Sharma has been embroiled in a series of controversies. In the latest one, he was accused of inviting two unauthorised persons to change tax rates.
Earlier on Wednesday, discussions were held to form a parliamentary committee to investigate the charges against Sharma.
Earlier in the day, the House of Representatives unanimously endorsed a proposal of Speaker Agni Sapkota for the formation of the Parliamentary Probe Special Committee.
The committee has four lawmakers from the CPN-UML, two each from the Nepali Congress and the Maoist Centre, and one each from the CPN (Unified Socialist), Janata Samajbadi Party and Loktantrik Samabajbadi Party.
The probe committee has Khagaraj Adhikari (UML), Dev Gurung (Maoist Centre), Pushpa Bhusal (Congress), Pradeep Gyawali (UML), Bhanubhakta Dhakal (UML), Bimala BK (UML), Laxman Lal Karna (Loktantrik Samajbadi Party), Shakti Basnet (Maoist Centre), Sarala Kumari Yadav (Unified Socialist), Sitaram Yadav (Congress) and Surendra Yadav (Janata Samajbadi Party).
While Sharma addressed the House, the UML boycotted the meeting and walked out.
The main opposition party CPN-UML has been demanding Sharma's resignation ever since reports suggested that he involved two persons to change tax rates.
On Wednesday morning, Finance Secretary Madhu Marasini went on leave for an indefinite period.
Marasini, Revenue Secretary Krishna Hari Pushka and two joint secretaries Bhupal Baral and Chakra Bahadur Budha were said to be at the Finance Ministry on the night of May 28, the day before the budget presentation, when Sharma invited the two outsiders.
Marasini has not said anything despite the Post’s repeated attempts to learn from him about the alleged incident.
Amid calls for a probe into Sharma, a new controversy arose after the ministry failed to provide the CCTV footage of May 28, saying only 13 days’ recording was possible to store.
While Sharma is in the dock, questions were also raised about Marasini.
“Secretary Marasini told us that he is going on a leave effective from Wednesday after he has also been dragged into controversy along with Sharma,” a joint secretary at the finance ministry told the Post.
Marasini also met with Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and Chairman of the CPN (Maoist Centre) Pushpa Kamal Dahal and informed both leaders that he will not return to work at the ministry until Sharma continues as minister, according to two officials.
Nepali Congress leaders including General Secretary Gagan Thapa have publicly demanded Sharma’s sacking.
There were also calls from civil society members to recall Sharma and investigate the involvement of unauthorised persons in tweaking some tax rates.
In response to the demand for the CCTV footage, the Finance Ministry has said that it got erased because the record of only 13 days remains in storage.
The ministry’s response has raised multiple questions.
Also, civil society members have demanded Sharma’s resignation and a fair probe into the incident.
On Tuesday, six former vice chairmen of the National Planning Commission demanded an investigation into the charges of budget tampering.
Former vice chairmen Prithvi Raj Ligal, Jagadish Chandra Pokhrel, Yubaraj Khatiwada, Dinesh Chandra Devkota, Govinda Raj Pokhrel and Pushpa Kadel have demanded that the government take concrete measures to tackle the ongoing economic crisis.