CIAA names investigation officer as it boosts probe

- Rajesh Khanal, Kathmandu

Aug 10, 2017-The Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) has named an investigation officer to conduct a detailed enquiry into Nepal Oil Corporation’s (NOC) controversial land deal. 

The appointment allows the anti-graft body to probe suspected officials by conducting hearings.

A preliminary investigation done by the CIAA revealed misappropriation of funds in several land deals concluded by the state-owned oil monopoly to build oil storage facilities at four locations. 

The Corruption Prevention Act 2002 authorises the CIAA to probe an official in detail if an initial investigation suggests a mismatch between his or her assets and sources of income. At this stage of the enquiry, the anti-corruption watchdog designates an officer to conduct further scrutiny.

CIAA Spokesperson Jib Raj Koirala said the commission had appointed an investigation officer under the CIAA’s Special Investigation Division. “The officer is fully authorised to investigate the property amassed by a person who holds a public post,” he said. 

According to Koirala, the anti-graft body has targeted concluding the investigation as soon as possible. “We will conduct a thorough study of the related documents besides carrying out field visits and questioning the concerned officials and stakeholders if necessary,” Koirala said. 

To this end, the CIAA asked NOC to provide details of the bidding process. The state-owned enterprise has been given until Thursday to do so. Last week, the CIAA confiscated documents related to the land deals from NOC headquarters. 

Ruling that irregularities had taken place in the land deals, the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee had directed the CIAA to investigate and take action against those involved.

CIAA Assistant Spokesperson Khagendra Prasad Rijal said that the commission began its detailed investigation two days ago. According to him, the commission will examine the legitimacy of the procedure that NOC had followed to purchase the land. 

“The first phase of the investigation will check whether NOC should have followed the Public Procurement Act or the bidding process for acquiring the land plots.” The second phase of the investigation will be concerned with the price of the land bought by NOC.

The state-owned enterprise has been charged with inflating prices of the land. It has been accused of misappropriation of 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. 

Meanwhile, the anti-corruption watchdog will also investigate if the NOC board has been involved in the scam. “The CIAA will examine whether the NOC board or just the management is involved in the irregularities,” Rijal said. 

The secretary of the Supplies Ministry chairs the NOC board. The CIAA has suspected the board’s involvement as it has repeatedly said that it had delegated the management to conduct the land deals. 

An investigation carried out by the parliamentary Industry, Commerce and Consumer Welfare Committee concluded that the NOC management had overstepped the authority given by the board. NOC was found to have bought more land than told by the board in Jhapa, Sarlahi and Bhairahawa. 

Published: 10-08-2017 08:21

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