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Irregularities in Sajha Prakashan: Probe committee ‘lacks adequate authority’

  • Members say they have to depend solely on reports furnished by the state-owned publishing house
- Post Report, Kathmandu

Aug 6, 2017-

Members of a probe panel formed by the government to investigate into alleged irregularities in Sajha Prakashan by its chairman and general manager are finding themselves at their wit’s end, as they say they lack ‘adequate authority’ and that they are not authorised to conduct raids and search.

The panel, formed by the Ministry of Education (MoE) on July 27 with a 15-day deadline, started its probe from August 1. 

But with no authority to conduct raids and search, the panel has to depend on the documents furnished by the state-owned publishing house, and its members are not sure how effective such a probe could be. 

Ganesh Dhakal, under-secretary at MoE’s Monitoring and Evaluation Section; Resham Sigdel, under-secretary at the Law Section; and Sunita Khanal, an accounts officer at the ministry are the members of the probe panel. 

The probe panel is tasked with investigating how the Rs 300 million given by the government to the cash-strapped Sajha Prakashan in grant “for its revival” was used. It is also supposed to investigate into the allegations that Dolindra Prasad Sharma, chairman and general manager of Sajha Prakashan, transferred the publishing house’s money to his personal accounts. Sharma is also accused of using his own publication house to publish three textbooks Sabaiko Nepali, Link English and Ek Chihan, compulsory subjects for higher secondary school students, inflicting losses to the state-owned publishing company. 

Considering the level of investigation that needs to be carried out, the government should have formed a high-level probe committee “with adequate authority”, the members of the probe panel say. 

 “Our investigation will be based on interrogation of Sharma and the reports he furnishes,” a member of the panel told the Post. “We don’t have the authority to carry out raids or search. A high level panel with adequate authority is needed for investigation into such types of corruption cases or charges.” 

Sharma was appointed  Sajha Prakashan general manager by then minister for education Chitra Lekha Yadav in 2014. His term was extended for four years last year by then education minister Dhani Ram Poudel. 

He has had his brush with controversy in the past as well. Sharma owns Oxford Publication House and in March 2015, he was found publishing books for grades six and seven for the students of public schools from his company despite the fact that it was not authorised to do so. 

His “close connection” with cross-party leaders is said to have prevented any action against him. 

Following reports of corruption in Sajha Prakashan, the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee on Friday asked the publishing house to submit its financial details of the last five years. 

Sajha Prakashan officials say irregularities started during the time of Mamata Jha who led the company for four years prior to Sharma. She never carried out auditing in her entire term. And the trend continues, the officials said. 

Published: 06-08-2017 08:08

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