EC allows Supplies Ministry to transfer NOC chief

- Post Report, Kathmandu

Oct 18, 2017-

The Election Commission (EC) on Tuesday allowed the Ministry of Supplies to implement its decision to transfer controversial Nepal Oil Corporation Managing Director Gopal Bahadur Khadka to the ministry. The ministry had sought the EC’s permission to relocate Khadka following enforcement of the election code of conduct.

The EC’s election code of conduct, among others, bars the government from transferring officials without seeking its permission.

The ministry wrote to the EC on Thursday seeking Khadka’s transfer. The EC’s meeting held on Monday approved the ministry’s proposal.

The ministry had sought Khadka’s transfer after the Supreme Court reinstated him to this previous post. The apex judicial organ on October 9 reversed the government’s decision of September 18 to sack Khadka. Khadka joined NOC right after the court issued its verdict.

Khadka has been accused of misappropriating around Rs800 million while buying land plots worth Rs1.61 billion in Bhairahawa, Chitwan, Sarlahi and Jhapa. The plots of land were bought to build oil storage facilities.

A field study report of the parliamentary sub-committee under the parliamentary Industry, Commerce and Consumer Welfare Committee concluded that NOC paid three to four times more than what the brokers had paid to the owners of the land. The panel’s report also showed that the NOC top brass, middlemen and local administrative chiefs had colluded to show that prices paid were reasonable. Separate probes conducted by five parliamentary committees and the Ministry of Supplies had revealed Khadka’s involvement in irregularities while buying land in four districts.

Apart from the land purchase deal, Khadka, since his appointment as NOC’s chief, is being seen as one of the controversial figures, because of involvement in multiple scams. He is also blamed for taking bribe of up to Rs70,000 per gas truck while issuing gas bullet operation permits. He is also accused of embezzling money while extending licenses to 17 gas bottlers. Khadka has also been charged of issuing licences to 334 new gasoline refilling centres in an arbitrary manner.

CIAA has been conducting investigation into the irregularities in NOC’s land purchase deals. Preliminary investigation by the anti-corruption body has also found NOC officials’ involvement in irregularities.

Former Supplies Minister Shiva Kumar Mandal said the ministry had decided to transfer Khadka to conduct further investigation into the land scam.

“The Supplies Ministry has suspected involvement of a number of NOC officials and former minister in the controversial land purchase deals. It had, thus, decided to transfer Khadka to the ministry,” said Mandal, who became a minister without a portfolio on Tuesday. According to him, the EC had also sought clarification from the ministry after the Cabinet sacked Khadka and appointed Joint Secretary Prem Prasad Acharya as the head of NOC. 

The Supplies Secretary is the chairperson of NOC board and holds the right to transfer NOC’s chief to the ministry. Mandal said the ministry has already approved the decision to transfer Khadka. However, Khadka’s fate will depend on acts of Jayant Chand, who was appointed as the new supplies minister on Tuesday.  “It is not known how things will move ahead in the new scenario,” Mandal said.

Published: 18-10-2017 12:58

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