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CIAA launches probe into NOC’s land deals

  • Misappropriation of Rs 800 million suspected while buying plots worth Rs 1.61 billion in four places: Bhairahawa, Chitwan, Sarlahi and Jhapa
- Rajesh Khanal, Kathmandu

Aug 1, 2017-The Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) has initiated investigation into possible fraud by Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) while buying land for the construction of fuel storage facilities.

The CIAA has confiscated all documents on land purchase from the NOC headquarters.

The state-owned petroleum monopoly has come under the CIAA scanner for alleged misappropriation of around Rs 800 million while buying land worth Rs1.61 billion in four places—Bhairahawa, Chitwan, Sarlahi and Jhapa.

CIAA Spokesperson Jib Raj Koirala said the anti-graft agency has started preliminary investigation into possible misappropriation while purchasing land.

The NOC had started the process of buying land to build oil storage facilities in all seven provinces following the government’s instruction to maintain fuel stock for at least 90 days. It then issued a tender notice to purchase 24 bighas of land each in Chitwan and Jhapa. Similarly, it bought 20 bighas of land each in Bhairahawa and Sarlahi.

The NOC has been accused of inflating the price of land plots and misappropriating Rs 568 million while buying land in Chitwan and Jhapa. The oil monopoly faces the charge of misappropriating Rs 348.2 million while buying land in Duhagadhi-3 of Mechi Municipality and Charaali of Jhapa district.

It paid Rs 1.35 million per kattha of land while the prevailing market price of land there is said to be Rs 751,000 per kattha. It is also accused of misappropriating Rs 220 million while buying land in Piple Village Council and Rapti Municipality-1 of Chitwan.

Similarly, it has been charged with misappropriating Rs 150 million and Rs 80 million respectively while purchasing land in Bhairahawa and Sarlahi.

Saroj Pandey, the newly elected ward chairman of Rohini Village Council, said the NOC had paid an exorbitant amount of money while buying land in Bhairahawa. According to him, the NOC had paid Rs 300,000 per kattha while the actual cost of land in the area is Rs 150,000 per kattha. The oil monopoly was found to have paid up to Rs1.07 million per kattha to the contractors.

Earlier, the parliamentary Industry, Commerce and Consumer Welfare Committee (ICCWC) had directed the state oil monopoly to construct the storage plants in government-owned land.

But it, only as a formality, asked the government to provide land while it had already reached deals with private contractors to buy land plots.

The parliamentary Finance Committee has even formed a sub-committee to probe into NOC’s land deals for possible fraud. Likewise, the parliamentary ICCWC is also making an inquiry into the issue.

Lawmaker Abdul Razzak, coordinator of the probe panel under the Finance Committee, said the NOC had shown reluctance to submit necessary documents. “Although we asked repeatedly to provide the papers, it refused to abide by the House panel’s instructions, saying the issue is under the jurisdiction of the parliamentary Industry, Commerce and Consumer Welfare Committee,” said Razzak, adding that the panel had asked the NOC’s authorities to be present with required papers in Tuesday’s meeting.

“As we were to purchase large plots of land for the construction of storage facilities, we processed the tender call through real estate contractors, not individual sellers,” said NOC’s Acting Deputy Managing Director Nagendra Sah.

Supplies Secretary Prem Kumar Rai, who led the NOC Board, said the board had given full authority to the NOC management to buy land. “The NOC team has reported that it purchased land at an elevation of 10-25 meters from the river by fulfilling due legal process,” Rai said.

Minister for Supplies Shiva Kumar Mandal said: “We are waiting for the report of the probe panel formed under the parliamentary committees. We will take necessary action if anyone is found guilty.”

(With inputs from district correspondents Madhav Dhungana in Bhairahawa, Bimal Khatiwada in Chitwan, Aman Koirala in Sarlahi and Arjun Rajbanshi in Damak)

Published: 01-08-2017 08:32

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