Lawmakers join clamour against NTB’s misconduct

- POST REPORT, Kathmandu
Lawmakers join clamour against NTB’s misconduct

May 9, 2014-

Lawmakers on Friday criticized the government for its failure to handle effectively the private sector’s protest movement against the Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) that has been accused of misusing tax money.

The NTB leadership has been charged with committing irregularities by amending its Financial Bylaws in contravention of the Public Procurement Act (PPA) which lays down the rules for procurement by public entities.

The amended bylaws have given the NTB’s chief executive exclusive rights to spend freely in excess of the limit set by the PPA, thereby arousing the anger of the private sector. The bylaws also allow the board to award contracts without competitive bidding even though the act says that tenders should be called before doing so.

The lawmakers said that “financial irregularities” had been uncovered at the NTB sparking protests from the private sector across the country, but the government did not seem to be responding appropriately to the issue.  

More than 30 travel trade associations from across the country have been protesting against the alleged financial irregularities at the NTB, which was formed under the public-private partnership model to promote Nepal’s tourism. The demonstration has been continuing for the last 10 days.

Angered by the government’s inaction despite the protracted protest, travel trade associations have announced stopping the issuance of Trekkers’ Information Management Systems (TIMS) cards to foreign trekkers from May 11.

“We are surprised why the government has turned a deaf ear to such a burning issue,” asked CPN-UML lawmaker Chudamani Jangali Bishwakarma on Friday at the ongoing protest of travel trade entrepreneurs.  

As the tourism industry is one of the major pillars of the country’s economy, its promotional body cannot be paralyzed, he said, adding that the tourism minister should immediately address the issue. “The private sector has unearthed financial misdeeds at the board, and anyone involved in them should be punished.”

Similarly, Kishore Singh Rathore, member of the central working committee of the Nepali Congress, said that the government should immediately form an investigation committee to look into the NTB’s financial matters.

The travel trade associations have been speaking out against various alleged irregularities at the board, and it seems the government has been lenient with the wrongdoers, Rathore said. “It’s the duty of the tourism minister to settle the issue, but he does not seem to be confident enough to fulfil his responsibility.” Meanwhile, Ganesh Man Pun, a UCPN (Maoist) lawmaker, questioned why the NTB’s line ministry had been delaying taking action on the issue raised by the private sector. “The board cannot be kept non-operational,” he said, adding that there was a need to restructure the NTB to enable it to perform as per the demands of the time.   

Travel trade entrepreneurs have accused the NTB’s officiating CEO Subash Nirola of promoting irregularities at the board by amending its Financial Bylaws and

influencing the board members. The board consists of 11 members, five representing the government, five representing the private sector and a chairman who is a government official.

Under the amendments to the Financial Bylaws that give sweeping powers to the NTB boss to dispense cash, the CEO can spend Rs 10 million at a time for tourism promotion activities inside the country. Similarly, the chief can spend $ 400,000 at a time outside the country without following any due process of the PPA. The CEO has also

been given the power to spend up to $ 400,000 at a time through its honorary representatives and firms.

As per the new rules, the NTB can procure goods and services worth up to Rs 2.5 million through a quotation. The board can also purchase goods and services including promotional materials through a single supplier directly through a written proposal.

As per the PPA, procurement should not be done in a piecemeal manner which would limit competition. However, in a violation of the rules, the NTB can make piecemeal purchases under the new bylaws. In other words, it can buy goods in small amounts under the same procurement deal.

The changed rules have also given powers to the head of the NTB to appoint an internal auditor to audit its account books.

Published: 10-05-2014 09:23

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