CIAA suspects foul play in NOC’s land purchase deals

- Post Report, Kathmandu

Aug 9, 2017-

The Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) has suspected foul play in deals sealed by Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) at the time of buying land to build oil storage facilities at four locations.

The corruption watchdog smelt the rat after conducting an initial investigation into the matter.

“Some errors have been spotted during the initial investigation,” CIAA Assistant Spokesperson Khagendra Prasad Rijal said without elaborating. “We have directed NOC to provide entire details of the land procurement process to conduct a thorough investigation.”

The CIAA had confiscated documents from NOC’s headquarters last week to carry out a study on NOC’s land purchase deals.

The investigation began after NOC was accused of misappropriating funds amounting to Rs800 million at the time of buying land at the value of Rs1.61 billion in Bhairahawa, Chitwan, Sarlahi and Jhapa. NOC had purchased land as part of its plan to build oil storage facilities in all seven provinces of the country to maintain fuel stock for at least 90 days.

NOC has been accused of embezzling funds totalling Rs568 million while purchasing land in Chitwan and Jhapa. It has also been charged of misappropriating Rs150 million and Rs80 million, respectively, while buying land in Bhairahawa and Sarlahi.

The state oil monopoly allegedly colluded with contractors to conduct the misdeed.

Since the time the scam was reported, three different parliamentary bodies—Finance Committee, Industry, Commerce and Consumer Welfare Committee, and Public Accounts Committee—have launched investigations into the matter. These parliamentary bodies have formed their own panels to probe the issue.

A preliminary investigation carried out by the parliamentary Industry, Commerce and Consumer Welfare Committee showed that NOC had decided unilaterally and ignored standard procedure when buying land to build storage plants. The enterprise also violated the law by not preparing a detailed project report, and conducting financial benefit analysis and hydrological study.

Also, NOC has been found to have purchased more land than told by the company’s board.

The Supplies Ministry said it would also initiate its own investigation into NOC’s land purchase deal. Supplies Secretary Prem Kumar Rai said the modality for investigation would be finalised upon return of Supplies Minister Shiva Kumar Mandal to Kathmandu on Wednesday.

The ministry is conducting a separate investigation into the matter after the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers directed it to do so. The PM’s Office has extended a 15-day deadline to Supplies Ministry to submit a report on NOC’s controversial land purchase deals.

Published: 09-08-2017 08:36

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