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‘NOC deliberately ignored procedure’

- Post Report, Kathmandu

Aug 7, 2017-The parliamentary Industry, Commerce and Consumer Welfare Committee has declared that Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) decided unilaterally and ignored procedure when buying land to build storage plants at four locations. 

A preliminary study conducted by the House panel has revealed policy corruption in the state-owned oil monopoly. It has decided to perform a detailed field study as it continues its probe.

NOC has been accused of misappropriating funds amounting to Rs800 million while buying land valued at Rs1.61 billion in four places: Bhairahawa, Chitwan, Sarlahi and Jhapa.

The corporation has been charged with inflating prices and misappropriating funds totalling Rs568 million on the land deals in Chitwan and Jhapa districts alone.

Similarly, it has been charged with misappropriating Rs150 million and Rs80 million respectively while buying land in Bhairahawa and Sarlahi districts. 

The parliamentary committee has formed a study panel under lawmaker Subhash Chandra Thakuri.

According to Thakuri, they have questioned multiple stakeholders including NOC officials in the course of their investigation. 

Unveiling the preliminary study report at a parliamentary committee meeting held on Sunday, Thakuri said the NOC chief and high government officials could have been working in collusion in the fraud. 

“The NOC board also has to assume responsibility for the irregularity as it turned a blind eye in the name of delegating authority to management instead of rigorously following the land deal,” said Thakuri. He added that they planned to grill all those concerned with the scam. 

A parliamentary committee meeting on February 22 had directed NOC to acquire government-owned land to construct storage plants.

“However, the corporation was found to have requested permission from the line agency only after starting the process to buy privately-owned land,” Thakuri said.

 

In addition, NOC has been found to have purchased more land than told by the board.

“NOC also violated the law by not carrying out a detailed project report, financial benefit analysis and hydrological study, among other processes.”

The state-owned enterprise is required to consult with the committee under the chief district officer of the concerned District Administration Office to assess the land and the prevailing price.

“However, the enterprise has submitted an assessment report prepared by the then secretary of the village council.”

Moreover, the plot NOC has bought in Bhairahawa lies close to the banks of the Rohini River and is susceptible to flood damage.

NOC has purchased 14.35 bighas of land at the site at the rate of Rs1.07 million per kattha.

The actual market price of the land there is reported to be only Rs150,000 per kattha at the most.

The day after NOC said that it would construct an embankment to protect its land from possible flooding, the entire area was covered with water following heavy rains.

A number of government bodies have been probing NOC, but no detailed study has been carried out so far.

While the parliamentary Finance Committee is yet to produce its report, PAC has directed the anti-graft body to conduct a detailed investigation.

Speaking at the House committee meeting, lawmakers said that stern action should be taken against the guilty.

They expressed concern that those involved in the fraud may get off lightly.

Lawmaker Bhesh Kumari Raut criticised the parliamentary committees for not preparing a detailed study report before directing the anti-graft body to take action.

Another lawmaker Shyam Shrestha said NOC had been involved in policy corruption and disregarded legal processes. 

Minister Mandal vows action

KATHMANDU: Supplies Minister Shiva Kumar Mandal on Sunday said the ministry would not step back from taking action against those found guilty in NOC’s controversial land deal.

“We may face pressure from various quarters, but I am committed to taking action even if I have to quit my post as minister,” he told media persons in Biratnagar. (PR) 

Published: 07-08-2017 08:48

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