MPs trade barbs in House over top-level corruptionUML challenges government to investigate tampering of tax rates last year and corruption in Maoist cantonments.
The first day of the budget session of the House of Representatives saw a heated debate between the ruling and opposition parties over corruption.
They accused each other of promoting corruption and challenged the other to come clean.
Addressing the special hour of the House, CPN-UML Chief Whip Padam Giri said apart from probing the fake Bhutanese refugees scam, the government should also dare to investigate the Nepal Airlines wide-body scam, the Bansbari land scam, Balmandir and Matatirtha land scams, as well as Yeti and Omni corruption cases.
The UML leader challenged the government to open the file to investigate corruption in the cantonments of Maoist combatants and the issue of budget tempering last year. “I have heard the prime minister say the investigation into the refugee scam was just a trailer. We are waiting to watch the full film,” said Giri, daring Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal to investigate all the recent corruption scams.
Other UML leaders who addressed the House said they sense partiality in the investigation of the fake refugees scam. “Our party is ready to cooperate in the probe. Everyone involved in the fake refugees scam must be investigated,” said Mahesh Bartaula, the UML whip. “However, our party will also foil every attempt to frame innocents.”
As many as eight people, including government Secretary Tek Narayan Pandey, have been arrested in connection with the scam. The police, however, haven’t been able to arrest UML secretary and member of the lower house Top Bahadur Rayamajhi, who remains at large.
Countering the UML lawmakers, CPN (Maoist Centre) parliamentarian Madhav Sapkota challenged them to present Rayamajhi before the police. “The main opposition is trying to derail the issue by making a mockery of the prime minister’s statement. If the main opposition is really serious about controlling corruption, it wouldn’t protect Top Bahadur Rayamajhi,” he said. “Produce Rayamajhi before the law… it would benefit you and your party.”
Also putting forth their views on the fake refugee scam, Nepali Congress lawmakers said all those involved must be investigated. Ram Hari Khatiwada, a Congress lawmaker, said the government should continue the investigation without being influenced in any way.
“We want all the culprits to be booked as per the existing law,” said Khatiwada. “I have also been named in the scam in some media reports. I must face action if the probe proves my involvement. I am ready to quit politics if proven guilty.”
Similarly, independent lawmaker Amresh Kumar Singh said corruption is the main barrier to the country's prosperity. He demanded that all corruption scams since 2006 be investigated.
Prime Minister Dahal said nobody involved in the refugee scam would be spared. “All the culprits will be booked and no innocent will be framed either,” said Dahal talking to journalists after the House meeting. “We won’t bow down to any kind of pressure.”
After the heated debate on corruption, Minister for Finance Prakash Sharan Mahat presented a proposal for the pre-budget discussion. A meeting of the Business Advisory Committee held prior to the House meeting decided to have pre-budget discussions for three days starting Monday. It will conclude on Wednesday with the finance minister responding to lawmakers’ concerns.
In principle, the issues raised during pre-budget discussions need to be incorporated in the national budget. As such discussions must be concluded 15 days prior to the presentation of the fiscal budget for 2023-24, the deliberations have to commence latest by May 8.
Once the pre-budget discussions are complete, President Ram Chandra Paudel will present the government’s policies and programmes to the joint session of Parliament.