‘NOC bought plots at highly inflated price’

  • house panel probe into land deals
- PRITHVI MAN SHRESTHA, Kathmandu

Sep 12, 2017-The Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) paid three to four times the going rate while buying land plots in Chitwan, Bhairahawa, Jhapa and Sarlahi, a parliamentary sub-committee has concluded.  

The sub-committee under the Industry, Commerce and Consumer Welfare Committee of the Legislature-Parliament in its report says local government staffers had recommended “artificial price”--much higher than the amount quoted by bidders--for the land plots that the state-owned oil monopoly had bought to construct storage facilities in the districts. 

The report has pointed to collusion between local government staffers and NOC officials in the corruption. 

For example, a ward secretary of Rapti Municipality Ward-1 stated that the market price of land in Rapti-1 was Rs 3 million per kattha.  

Bidder Jaya Ram Thapa, who had collected land plots from local landowners, had quoted Rs 1.58 million per kattha, which is much lower than the competitor bidder Buddha Ratna Dangol, who had quoted Rs 1.79 million per kattha. The NOC had bought two plots of land totalling 23 bigha and 12 kattha from Thapa, claiming that the price quoted by him was lower than another bidder. 

But, the market price recommended by the ward secretary is clearly misleading as bidder Thapa had paid just Rs 400,000-Rs1 million per kattha to actual landowners of the area. In Bhairahawa, the NOC purchased 14 bigha and seven kattha of land from Hari Prasad Pokharel who had collected land plots totalling to 27 bigha and 16 kattha in then Pathkhauli, Basantapur and Dhakdhai village development committees from 65 local landowners. 

These VDCs had written to the NOC that the market price of the land in the area stood at Rs 1.5 million-Rs 2 million per kattha. Pokharel had quoted Rs 1.09 million per kattha, lower than his competitor bidder. But, the parliamentary panel found that the price quoted by these local government officials was much higher than actual market price. 

According to the panel’s report, the actual average market price of land in the area was Rs 200,000 per kattha. The local landowners were paid between Rs 200,000 and Rs 400,000 for each kattha of land. 

The land purchased in Bhairahawa is on the bank of a river and is at risk of being swept away. “Technically, the storage tanks of NOC cannot be built there without constructing an embankment to prevent waters from the river,” the report says.

In Jhapa, the NOC bought 24 bigha and one kattha land in then Duwagadhi VDC from bidder Niraj Kumar Thapaliya based on Rs 1.35 million per kattha. The land is on the eastern side of the Mechi highway and 1.2km from the East-West Highway. The ward office had recommended the market price of area at Rs 1.8 million, which, according to study report, is not true. 

The Mechi Municipality mayor and concerned ward chairperson of the municipality informed the parliamentary team that the market price of land purchased by the NOC was Rs 500,000 per kattha in the area that is connected with the highway and Rs 300,000 per kattha in other areas.  

Similar was the case in Sarlahi. According to the report, the NOC bought 14 bigha and five kattha of land based in then Netragunj VDC from bidder Binod Bhandari on the basis of Rs 961,000 per kattha. Then VDC secretary Gopal Bahadur Thapa had certified that the market price of the land in the area stood at Rs 1.81 million per kattha. 

But, the parliamentary panel found during its field visit that the actual landowners had received just Rs 275,000 to Rs 325,000 per kattha. 

The report has sought action against concerned board members of the NOC, its management, local government staffers and the middlemen. 

Published: 12-09-2017 07:57

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