Bhatta removed from post of acting NOC MD

- POST REPORT, Kathmandu
Bhatta removed from post of acting NOC MD

Jan 26, 2015-

The Cabinet on Monday removed acting managing director of Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) Chandika Prasad Bhatta and put Gopal Bahadur Khadka in his place.

NOC officials charged that Bhatta had been ousted for bucking pressure to go easy on tanker and gasoline station owners accused of involvement in an oil theft scheme.

Seven months ago, a group of tanker drivers and their helpers had been arrested red-handed while they were stealing oil from tankers along the Sunauli-Valwari route in Rupandehi.

A police investigation revealed that NOC staffers and tanker owners had been working in collusion.

Former NOC chief Bhatta had been facing intense political pressure to lift the ban on the 88 tanker owners and four petrol pump operators implicated in the theft.

He would have lost his job earlier except that Commerce and Supply Minister Sunil Bahadur Thapa was away, sources said. Minister Thapa himself was being prodded by his Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) to get rid of him without delay.

Bhatta had protested after the NOC board headed by Commerce and Supply Secretary Narayan Gopal Malego recently lifted the suspension against those involved in the petroleum theft by interpreting the legal provision its way.

Bhatta had also antagonized petroleum dealers by his plan to allow the Armed Police Force (APF) and the Nepal Police to operate 200 new tankers, and these traders had been badgering RPP leaders to remove Bhatta, according to NOC officials.

Bhatta had reasoned that the country would not be bothered by artificial fuel shortages created by petroleum traders if the APF and the Nepal Police were allowed to transport petroleum products.

However, Minister Thapa refuted charges that Bhatta had been removed under pressure from petroleum traders. “Bhatta was on deputation to NOC. After completing his term, he was sent back to the Department of Mines where he had the actual posting,” he added. Meanwhile, Bhatta said that he would honour the Cabinet’s decision and was waiting for his official letter. He said that he had begun the process of using an advanced locking system on petroleum tankers to control theft. Bhatta added that the plan to implement colour coded cylinders for liquefied petroleum gas was nearing completion.  

“I made efforts to reform the sector, and I hope the new NOC chief will take the reform initiatives to a logical end,” he said.

The introduction of an auto pricing system for petroleum products is one of Bhatta’s achievements. NOC had not been able to execute the plan for many years despite the recommendations of successive studies to do so.

The implementation of the auto pricing system combined with a massive fall in oil prices in the international market has allowed debt-ridden NOC to earn profits for the first time in years.

Meanwhile, Minister Thapa said that the ministry was studying the oil theft case although the ban on the perpetrators had already been lifted through NOC board’s decision.

Action was taken under one legal provision while punishment was lifted based on another law. “If found guilty, we won’t keep back from taking action against the accused,” he said.

Published: 27-01-2015 09:29

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