At minister’s call, House panel changes decision

- Post Report, Kathmandu
Minister Banskotachallenges parliamentarypractice of honouringdirectives, pressing aHouse committee tochange its decision

Oct 5, 2018-House committees are mini-parliaments meant to put checks on the executive. Their importance increases when Parliament is in recess. In parliamentary practice, the executive follows the directives of the committees.

However, a minister on Thursday challenged the practice, directing a House committee to change its decision. Under pressure from Minister for Communication and Information Technology Gokul Banskota, the Committee on Development and Technology reconsidered its decision.

After listening to lawmakers’ opinions and clarification from Minister Banskota, committee Chairperson Kalyani Khadka had read a decision that directed the government to adopt free competition while appointing the Nepal Telecom general manager.

Even before she had completed her sentence, Minister Banskota interrupted to claim that free competition was practised in the appointment. Khadka tried to explain that the directive was for implementing the provision in a transparent manner.

Banskota commanded: “Hold on a minute, chairperson! Don’t present a readymade decision. I ask lawmakers to do a research before reaching decisions.”

Following his reservation, the committee removed the directive from its decision. This probably is the first time since 2008, when the country embraced a new political set-up, that any thematic committee has changed its own decision following pressure from a minister.

Minister Banskota, who is part of several controversial decisions after assuming office seven months ago, was also furious against media criticism of him. Most of the time he spoke was to attack the media. “My style won’t change just because what media write. I am a man of deed and will continue to be one,” he told the House.

Banskota, who is also the government spokesperson, said he was ready to give any amount of money to reporters who were “writing unnecessary things about me”. “Those who wrote baseless news about Rs200 million corruption, come to me during Dashain. I will give you as much money you want,” he said. The minister might be referring to allegations of corruption while re-appointing Jha to a top position.

Minister Banskota, Secretary Mahendra Man Gurung and Jha were summoned to the committee to brief on the ministry’s activities.

Committee seeks clarity on Jha’s appointment

The Parliamentary Committee on Development and Technology on Thursday directed the government to clarify why Digambar Jha, who got into controversies while serving as the head of Nepal Oli Corporation and later as the chief of Nepal Telecommunication Authority, was put at the helm of the telecommunication sector regulator for the second time.

The committee under the House of Representatives has given the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology 15 days to furnish a clarification.The government on August 21 appointed Jha as the NTA chair, two months after he was removed from the same position. The incumbent government on July 4 had sacked him along with several other officials appointed by the erstwhile Sher Bahadur Deuba-led administration.

“The committee directs the ministry to report within 15 days, explaining the basis for, and reasons behind, Jha’s reappointment,” said Kalyani Khadka, the House committee chair.Besides Jha, the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology had nominated former secretary Sushil Ghimire and senior director of NTA Purushottam Khanal as candidates for the post. However, Banskota preferred Jha to others despite his controversial stint as the NTA chairperson in the past.

Jha was allegedly involvement in controversial deals worth billions of rupees. A report by a panel led by Surya Bahadur Raut, former joint-secretary at the ministry, has pointed out a number of contracts awarded by Jha that flouted legal provisions. He was found to have appointed an NGO with no technical expertise to monitor the broadband internet service.

The House committee issued the directive following queries from lawmakers. “Jha is in the limelight these days. I think he should respond to the concerns raised against him on different issues,” Nepal Communist Party lawmaker Yagya Raj Sunuwar demanded. Nepali Congress lawmaker Jip Chhiring Lama had asked the ministry to clarify the appointment.

Published: 05-10-2018 07:16

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