BHAIRAHAWA: Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC), the country’s petroleum monopoly, has been found to be indulged in financial irregularities worth multi-million rupees while procuring land plots across the country.
In various parts of the country, NOC has paid as high as four times the market price to purchase plots of land to build storage facilities. The apparent corruption was committed in collaboration with multiple land agents. In doing so, the land agents and NOC’s high-level officials have illegally pocketed millions of rupees.
The corporation had allocated Rs 6 billion to procure land plots in all seven provinces to build storage facilities. Among these provinces, pieces of land worth Rs 1.61 billion have already been purchased in Rupandehi, Chitwan, Sarlahi and Jhapa districts. There has been foul play in the transactions as the NOC has paid Rs 670 million more than the going rates.
For instance in Bhairahawa, NOC has purchased land nearby the banks of the Rohani River in ward 4 and 5 of Omsatiya Rural Municipality. As per the current market price, one kattha of the acquired land is worth between Rs 250,000 to Rs 600,000. However, the corporation has paid up to Rs 1.3 million for a kattha of land, claimed locals with the knowledge of the transactions. According to them, NOC has paid about Rs 150 million in excess for the land in Bhairahawa alone.
“The corporation has totally disregarded the market price and worked in cahoots with land agents to pocket handsome commissions,” said a reliable source, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Liladhar Dube, one of the locals of Omsatiya who sold his lands, confirmed that land agents have procured the land from them within the range of Rs 250,000 to Rs 350,000. “However, the agents, in collaboration with officials of NOC, sold the land to the corporation for about thrice this amount,” he said.
Local farmers have sold their barren lands at the market price amount that satisfied them. “As the plots of land remained fallow for years, we sold it to NOC through local land agents,” Dube added.
According to the Land Revenue Office, Bhairahawa, NOC has procured 104 plots of land for Rs 314.08 million. The 14 bighas of land procured by NOC would cost Rs 172.2 million even at the maximum valuation rate of Rs 600,000. Based on this calculation, NOC has paid about Rs 150 million more in Bhairahawa alone. The plots of land were purchased on July 12, the office said.
One of the seller, Laxman Chai, said, “Although I sold eight katthas of land at the rate of Rs 500,000, the consent letter has mentioned the rate of Rs 900,000.” He further added, “When asked why, they threatened us and told us to keep quiet.”
Legally, a committee headed by the Chief District Officer evaluates and sets the land’s value. However, NOC did not follow the legal procedures, and directly called a public tender after choosing the location.
Similarly, NOC paid around thrice the going rate for the land it purchased at Lothar Bazaar in Chitwan. Here, the corporation had paid Rs 600 million for 24 bighas of land. The local brokers had bought the land at Rs 800,000 per kattha and sold it to the NOC for Rs 1.4 million per kattha.
Meanwhile, NOC Managing Director Gopal Bahadur Khadka was not available for comments on Sunday despite repeated attempts by Republica.
(Rekha Bhusal in Bhairahawa, Ramesh Kumar Paudel in Chitwan, Santosh Kumar Singh in Sarlahi and Raju Adhikari in Jhapa also contributed to this report)