National

Changunarayan Municipality to manage engineering college

- PRITHVI MAN SHRESTHA, Kathmandu

Feb 18, 2019-

Changunarayan Municipality has decided to takeover the management of Nepal Engineering College (NEC), whose ownership dispute resulted in the resignation of a commissioner of the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority.

Raj Narayan Pathak, a commissioner of the anti-graft body, on Friday tendered his resignation after being embroiled in a controversy following the release of videos that showed him admitting to receiving Rs7.8 million to settle a case related to the college.

The Changunarayan-based college, established as a not-for-profit social academic institute in 1994, was caught in a dispute after a group led by Lambodar Kumar Neupane attempted to convert it into a private limited company in May 2017. A meeting of the Municipal Assembly, held from February 8-12, decided to take over the management of the college and run it as community college.

The municipality said the decision was made on the basis of the fact that the college has been registered as a social institution. A parliamentary committee study had also concluded that it was a community college. The municipality’s consultations with political parties and stakeholders also arrived to a consensus that the college should be run as a community institution.

“The municipality will now run it by appointing a new board of directors,” Changunarayan Municipality Mayor Som Prasad Mishra told the Post. “We have prepared an operation modality and formed an 85-member high-level council to select board members.”

Read: Anti-graft agency official stares at impeachment over corruption

Mishra, however, made it clear that the municipality’s decision is subject to change as per the final verdict of the Supreme Court regarding the dispute.

By issuing an interim order, the Supreme Court on January 28 this year had stayed Lalitpur High Court’s order on December 28, 2018 to run the college as a company.   

Although the ownership dispute arose after Neupane registered Nepal Engineering  College Private Limited

under his own ownership on May 8, 2017, officials at the college said that Neupane had long tried to bring the college, which was running well, under private ownership. In fact, when the college was established in 1994, it was established with an investment of Rs3.5 million as a non-profit institution.

Seven founders—Ram Ratna Upadhyay, Labraj Bhattarai, Upendra Gautam,  Deepak Prasad Bhattarai, Hari Prasad Pandey, Lambodar Neupane and Surya Bahadur KC—had invested Rs500,000 each as interest-free loans on the condition that the college would return the money after it became capable to repay. But as the college started to make good income, the money was used in increasing the assets of the college.

College sources said that about 75 percent of their investment has already been returned until recently, according to a senior college official. The college now has assets worth around Rs1.5 billion including 36 ropanies of land, five buildings, and other property.

The erstwhile Chang-unarayan Village Development Committee had also provided 174 ropanies of land for its use, with which it constructed some other buildings. The college currently has around 2,200 students and around 200 teachers and employees.

According to sources at the college, the big amount of property, collected in the name of the college, tempted a group of board members led by Neupane to  bring the property under personal ownership.

According to the sources, Neupane, along with Surya Bahadur KC, Labraj Bhattarai, Upendra Gautam and Ram Ratna Upadhyay, had made several attempts to sell the college since Neupane was appointed board chairman of the college on November 18, 2013.

After Neupane registered a private limited company under the name—Nepal Engineering College Pvt Ltd—and sought to bring all moveable and immoveable properties of Chagunarayan-based Nepal Engineering College under the ownership of company, the dispute flared up.

The issue then reached the CIAA. Leaked videos showed that he had received money allegedly from the Neupane group—that had used different individuals—to settle the dispute. But  when there was no headway, the group that bribed Pathak conducted a sting operation on the commissioner. The sting operators leaked the videos of Pathak admitting to have taken graft which ultimately cost him his job at the CIAA.

CIAA discusses probe in Pathak’s graft case

KATHMANDU: Senior officials at the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority on Sunday discussed initiating an investigation in the graft case involving Raj Narayan Pathak, who resigned as a commissioner of the anti-graft body on Friday.

Despite video evidence of Pathak admitting to have received Rs7.8 million in bribe, there is a concern whether he would also walk away without being prosecuted like other people who  had committed irregularities as constitutional body post holders in the past.

“We are facing pressure from all quarters to initiate an investigation. We have not reached a conclusion yet due to the lack of clarity in the constitution whether office bearers of a constitutional body can be prosecuted on corruption charges,” a CIAA commissioner said.

Article 239 (3) of the constitution may be interpreted that the commission can initiate action against an office bearer of a constitutional body only when he or she is removed through impeachment, CIAA officials said.

In the past, Lokman Singh Karki, who was disqualified by the Supreme Court questioning his moral integrity, didn’t face any inquiry, though questions were raised about constitutionality and legality of his actions as the CIAA chief.

Former chief justice Gopal Prasad Parajuli was embroiled in a controversy over fake birth and academic  certificates. Supreme Court Justice Deepak Raj Joshi was disqualified by the Parliamentary Hearing Committee to head the judiciary citing his controversial verdicts in the past. None faced any action raising questions whether holding a constitutional body post gives one impunity against their corrupt deeds. (PR)

Published: 18-02-2019 08:23

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