Print Edition - 2018-04-08 | MONEY
Khaptad tourism body’s funding cut off due to irregularities
Apr 8, 2018-
The number of tourists visiting Khaptad in far west Nepal has been increasing continuously, and various campaigns and programmes are being held at the national and international levels to boost arrivals to the region. However, the Khaptad Tourism Area Development Committee (KTADC), which was formed by the government for the overall development of Khaptad, is in limbo.
The KTADC has received funding totalling Rs210 million in the last 10 years, but the government has not allocated any budget this fiscal year. A new house with nine rooms intended to be used by the KTADC, although still incomplete and yet to be handed over by the contractors, has been converted into an animal shed.
Likewise, the government has not appointed a managing director, whose position is equivalent to that of a government under-secretary, and other officials. The KTADC’s telephone and electricity have been cut off as the bills have not been paid. Section Officer Prem Kunwar said, “We have not received any salary this fiscal year, and our appointment has not been extended for the last six months. We are confused if we are still employees officially.”
Two years ago, the KTADC appointed a section officer, sub-engineer and a non-gazetted first class officer through free competition. No records have been maintained that the KTADC held a meeting during the past one year.
“The government has created a shameful condition. Without any authority and responsibilities, how is it possible for us to hold meetings?” said Chairman Purna Raj Joshi.
The main reason behind the KTADC’s sinking into this condition is reported to be corruption and conflict. Office bearers have faced various charges of corruption from the beginning.
The Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) filed three charges on January 29, 2015, October 3, 2015 and January 22, 2016. However, the charges are yet to be settled. The CIAA said that it had kept the necessary proofs and paperwork, collected opinions and moved the investigation forward by asking for reports. The KTADC has not settled arrears amounting to Rs10.62 million from the beginning. Due to lack of permanent staff, the irresponsibility and unaccountability of politically appointed employees has led to an increase in arrears.
The KTADC received a budgetary allocation of Rs12.6 million in the fiscal year 2013-14, Rs12.4 million in 2014-15 and Rs21.4 million in 2015-16. When the office was formed 10 years ago, the then chief secretary Lila Mani Paudyal had allocated a budget of Rs70 million. However, it was revealed that KTADC officials clashed as they belonged to different political factions.
The current Chief Minister Trilochan Bhatta was the first chairman of the KTADC. The competition over the post of chairman is also a key reason for the sorry state of the KTADC. “Corruption has crippled the KTADC,” said Birendra Shah, an activist of Khutruke Abhiyan, a campaign to operate the Khaptad Cable Car.
Tika Fulara, professor of Doti Multiple Campus, said, “The politically appointed managing directors and chairmen let the rot of corruption spread to activists of the political party to which they were affiliated. They were found to hand over duties to the activists and pay them even though they had not performed their duties.”
Due to blatant corruption and irregularities, the Ministry of Tourism has been slashing the budget for the Khaptad area. Accordingly, the ministry did not allocate any budget for this fiscal year. The KTADC has seen six managing directors so far, and all of them are facing court cases and corruption charges. The budget allocation for the Khaptad area was intended to be spent on building guest houses, footpaths, a view tower, bridges and symbolic sites. The funding would also be used to buy tents and clothes for tourists.
However, most of the goals have not been achieved. Even the KTADC’s building lies incomplete. It is being used even though the contractors have not made the handover.
The government made a policy level change to send employees of the level of under-secretary to serve as the managing director. However, it has not sent any employee after Dipak Budhathoki, former head of the Tourism Office in Banke, retired.
Published: 08-04-2018 11:02