Kathmandu – Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Rabindra Adhikari has made it clear that he was not involved in wide-body aircraft procurement process.
“I only received the aircraft as the head of the tourism ministry. Before I assumed office, procurement deal was already signed and payment was released,” Minister Adhikari said in the meeting.
Answering to queries raised by members of a sub-committee formed by the Public Accounts Committee of parliament to look into alleged irregularities in purchase of two Airbus A330-243 aircraft on Tuesday, Adhikari, however, promised all possible support in the investigation, according to Rajendra Kumar KC, the coordinator of the sub-committee.
“He (Minister Adhikari) said that he was not there when the aircraft procurement deal was signed. All the process has been completed before assumed the office at the tourism ministry,” KC told us.
According to KC, Adhikari accepted irregularities in the procurement process as pointed by the Office of Auditor General (OAG). “He told the meeting that the ministry had held informal discussion with the OAG officials before receiving the aircraft and release any outstanding payments,” KC said.
He told Republica that all the documents that the sub-committee has studied suggest irregularities in the aircraft procurement process. “All those involved in the irregularity will be punished,” KC added.
The sub-committee had summoned tourism minister, secretary and joint secretary form the tourism ministry, as well as officials of Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) for the meeting on Tuesday. In the meeting, the sub-committee sought clarifications from the minister and high-ranking officials of tourism ministry as well as NAC on aircraft procurement deal and irregularities mentioned in the 55th Annual Report of the OAG.
A meeting of the PAC held on December 13 had decided to form a five-member sub-committee under KC to launch further investigation into the procurement deal. Mina Pun, Dharmashila Chapagain, Prem Ale and Krishna Lal Maharjan are the other members of the sub-committee. The committee has been given 15 days to submit its report. It has until Friday to submit its report.
According to KC, the sub-committee is likely to submit its report on Friday itself.
The PAC formed the sub-committee after receiving investigation report on aircraft procurement from the Public Procurement Monitoring Committee (PPMO). The parliamentary panel had started discussion on aircraft procurement about a month ago based on the 55th Annual Report of OAG. The OAG has found serious flaws in the procurement process.
While the PAC has suspected embezzlement of Rs 6 billion in the wide-body aircraft purchase, both the ministry and NAC officials have been arguing that they have gone through the procurement process prescribed in the law.
Taken from My Republica