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NOC chief defiant about controversial land deals

- Dipak Pariyar, Pokhara

Aug 20, 2017-The defiant chief of Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC), who is embroiled in a corruption case worth millions of rupees, has challenged journalists to prevent him from wrapping up controversial land purchase deals.

“Plots of land were purchased in various parts of the country to build fuel storage facilities as per the instruction of the government, and nobody can stop me from achieving this goal,” NOC Managing Director Gopal Bahadur Khadka told the inaugural session of the 12th annual general meeting and sixth convention of the Petroleum Transport Entrepreneurs Federation in the western Nepali city of Pokhara on Saturday.

“I know journalists are here today and you can write what I’m saying in as big alphabets as you want. But NOC will build new storage facilities in the next five years because this is the government’s instruction,” Khadka said.

State-owned NOC has been accused of misappropriating around Rs800 million while 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, as existing storage plants hold fuel stock sufficient for only a week.

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.

“Many newspapers have made various accusations. But this won’t have any effect on us, as NOC is working with a high morale,” Khadka said, adding, “We need more storage plants and they will be built no matter what.” 

Earlier, newly appointed Supplies Minister Shiva Kumar Mandal had pledged to leave no stone unturned to punish those involved in the corruption. He reiterated the same statement on Saturday.

“Nobody should hold grudges against anyone trying to do something good. But if the intention is wrong Shiva Kumar Mandal will not spare them,” he told the event at Pokhara. “I won’t make any compromise on issues related to malpractices in 

my ministry.”

Published: 20-08-2017 09:11

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