Minister removes secretary over Caan chief row

- Post Report, Kathmandu
Neupane had refused to sign the proposal to sack Caan chief Sanjiv Gautam on multiple occasions

Jan 27, 2018-Tourism Minister Jitendra Narayan Dev has transferred Secretary Maheswor Neupane for his non-cooperation in sacking the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (Caan) chief Sanjiv Gautam, multiple sources confirmed. 

The decision to transfer Neupane was made during the Cabinet’s meeting on Thursday night, a day before the Election Commission enforced its code of conduct for National Assembly elections, scheduled for February 7. Neupane has been transferred to the Public Procurement Monitoring Office while Secretary Krishna Devkota has been inducted into the ministry. 

A highly-placed source at the ministry said that Minister Dev had asked Neupane to prepare a proposal to appoint Suresh Acharya, joint secretary at the ministry, in place of Gautam and put his signature on it, before the proposal was tabled at the Cabinet. Neupane was asked to sack Gautam on two different occasions. 

The cabinet system requires the signature from the concerned ministry’s secretary before the proposal is tabled. “In both occasions, Neupane took a leave,” 

said the sources. The last attempt to obtain secretary’s signature by the minister 

was on Wednesday. “As the minister’s plan did not materialise, the secretary was given his marching orders from the ministry.” 

Minister Dev had made multiple attempts to replace Gautam with a new chief. Last September, the ministry directed Gautam to stop attending the office and be present at the ministry every day to review policy and other projects of the country’s aviation industry. However, the ministry was forced to roll back its decision. This tussle between Dev and Gautam kept going back and forth, resulting in the Caan board approving the annual budget after a four month delay. 

The Minister chairs the Caan board. 

Gautam was appointed as the chief of Caan for a period of four years. One of his 

biggest achievements since joining office was to remove the tag of “significant safety concerns” put on Nepal’s aviation sector by the International Civil Aviation Organisation, the global aviation watchdog, for failure to raise air safety standards. Removal of this tag is considered a first step towards getting the country out of the safety list of the European Commission, which has barred all Nepali carriers from flying in European skies because of poor safety records. 

Recently, a delegation led by Gautam, visited Brussels, Belgium to explain Nepal’s progress in resolving deficiencies in the country’s aviation industry. The Caan expects a quick lifting of the order barring Nepali airlines from flying in the skies of major European countries, a move which should cheer domestic airlines planning to expand their wings to the continent. 

Published: 27-01-2018 08:28

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