CIAA launches probe into alleged NTB irregularities

- POST REPORT, Kathmandu
CIAA launches probe into alleged NTB irregularities

Jun 26, 2014-

The Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) has formally launched an investigation into alleged financial irregularities at Nepal Tourism Board (NTB), a day after the board’s officiating CEO Subash Nirola attended the office.

The anti-graft body has directed the NTB to submit its financial transactions and other documents of the last four years, including audit reports of the Office of the Auditor General, within two days. “We have started investigation into NTB,” said CIAA Spokesperson Shreedhar Sapkota. He, however, refused to provide further details.

On June 19, NTB went back to business as usual ending a 53-day disruption after the Tourism Ministry “unofficially” disempowered Nirola. NTB employees went back to work after a secretary-level decision authorised its directors to run the organisation under the Clause 11 (1) of its Employees Bylaws.

As per the rules, NTB activities can be carried out through a collective decision of four directors, among which a senior director will serve as acting CEO in the absence of a CEO or officiating CEO.

The ministry’s decision came immediately after the CIAA ordered it to resolve the longstanding issue within three days or face lead proceedings. The ministry’s move was aimed at making the environment favourable for investigation by removing Nirola. A seven-member committee has been formed by the ministry to look into the alleged irregularities.

However, as there was “no official” directives from the ministry to remove Nirola during the investigation, the Clause 11 (1) of its Employees Bylaws also allows him to perform his duty, said an NTB official.

On Wednesday, Nirola attended the office, after almost two months. He was accompanied by around 25 personal guards and also a dozen of police personnel.

Travel trade associations have launched agitation against Nirola’s misconduct and barred him to attend the office. “There was a bit of mess on the NTB premises on Thursday. Nirola was surrounded by his 20-25 personal guards. Half of them were inside NTB premises and rest outside,” said the official. “Besides, police were also guarding Nirola in his chamber.” All the activities at the country’s tourism promotional body had come to a grinding halt for the last two months after travel trade associations launched a strong protest against NTB for misusing tax money.

Travel traders have accused NTB bosses of 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 that have upset the tourism industry have given 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: 27-06-2014 09:12

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