Police break up peace rally by travel traders, 15 held

- POST REPORT, Kathmandu

May 27, 2014-

Police on Tuesday arrested 15 travel traders from different parts of the city while they were holding a peace rally against the top brass of the Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) who have been accused of abusing authority. They were detained for four hours before being released.

More than 500 travel traders took part in a car and motorcycle rally that started from Thamel early in the morning and concluded at the NTB premises. This is the third phase of the agitation launched by more than 35 travel trade associations demanding reforms in the country’s tourism body and legal action against its key executives whom they have accused of misusing tax money.

The protesters have charged them with committing irregularities by amending the NTB’s Financial Bylaws in contravention of the Public Procurement Act (PPA), which lays down the rules for procurement by public entities.

Suman Pandey, president of PATA Nepal Chapter, said that the police suddenly broke up the peace rally. According to him, Ramesh Dhamala and Deepak Mahat, who have been leading the joint tourism coordination committee, were arrested from the old bus park, while other agitating members were arrested from the NTB premises.

DSP Arjun Chand, spokesperson of the Metropolitan Police Range Kathmandu, said that they arrested the protestors based on a complaint filed at the District Administration Office that their actions affected regular work at the board.

The disgruntled travel traders are scheduled to picket the Constituent Assembly hall on Thursday if their demands are not addressed.

Although the government had formed a probe committee led by Purna Chandra Bhattarai, joint secretary of the Tourism Ministry, to look into the matter, sources at the ministry said there had been “no development”. The committee was formed on May 11 and had been asked to submit its report by 15 days.

“Due to lack of cooperation from the government as well as the private sector, the investigation has not moved ahead, although the deadline to submit the report ended on Tuesday,” said an official at the ministry.

The committee had been entrusted with the task of studying the amended financial bylaws and recommending necessary action. It has also been told to investigate the NTB’s income and expenditure for the past three years and advise the government on the measures to be taken if financial misconduct is detected.

Other tasks given to the committee are studying the complaints filed against the NTB at the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority and other agencies, looking into the expenditure of tax money collected by issuing Trekkers Information Management System cards to foreign trekkers and recommending better ways to manage it.

The amended bylaws that have upset the tourism industry have given the NTB’s chief executive exclusive rights to spend freely in excess of the limit set by the PPA.

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.

Under the amendments to the Financial Bylaws that give sweeping powers to the NTB boss to dispense cash, the CEO can spend up to 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.

Published: 28-05-2014 09:00

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