Travel traders go to PM to complain about NTB

- POST REPORT, Kathmandu

May 1, 2014-

A delegation of disgruntled travel trade entrepreneurs called on Prime Minister Sushil Koirala and Finance Minister Ram Saran Mahat on Thursday and briefed them about the financial irregularities they said were taking place at the Nepal Tourism Board (NTB).

During the meeting, Koirala told the delegation that he had adopted a zero-tolerance policy against corruption, and warned that the government would not spare anyone involved in such offences.

“We have been asked to discuss the issue with the Tourism Ministry,” said Ramesh Dhamala, president of the Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal.

Travel traders have accused NTB officials of spending the tax money raised from tourists without controls by amending the bylaws to suit themselves.

During a separate meeting, Finance Minister Mahat said that it was against the law to violate the country’s Public Procurement Act and raised questions over the amendments to the NTB’s Financial Bylaws. He informed the delegation that the government would look into the issue.  

The NTB, the country’s tourism promotion body, used to be considered an example in public-private partnership in South Asia, and the second best model in the region after Sri Lanka. Since the last few years, however, sparkling NTB has been engulfed in multiple problems hindering effective branding and promotion of Nepal at the international and national levels.

On Wednesday, it was forced to cancel the planned Sixth National Tourism Fair after various travel trade associations held a sit-in on its premises in protest against alleged financial irregularities.

The NTB called off the three-day fair slated to begin on May 2 due to the demonstration held by the private sector demanding that it make its financial transactions transparent and immediately appoint a CEO in a competitive and fair manner.

The annual National Tourism Fair is the country’s largest tourism fair that aligns diverse tourism products with marketing initiatives by bringing all the stakeholders into a single platform from across the country.

The NTB has been receiving flak for making unilateral decisions when it is supposed to be a government-private sector operation. Four months ago, it amended the Financial Bylaws 2013 in a move criticized as being one-sided.

The changed Financial Bylaws have not been made public yet. According to the amended rules, the NTB chief is authorised to spend Rs 10 million at a time for tourism promotion inside the country. Earlier, this amount was around Rs 500,000.

The NTB boss can spend US$ 400,000 at a time outside the country without following any due process of the PPA. Likewise, the CEO has been given the power to spend US$ 400,000 at a time through the NTB’s honorary representatives and firms.

Published: 02-05-2014 09:11

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