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House probe report wants legal action in NOC land scam

KATHMANDU:  Parliament’s Industry, Commerce and Consumer Rights Protection Committee has concluded that the leadership of the Ministry of Supply, the Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) and other officials were involved in embezzling millions while buying land for  NOC, and has recommended legal action against all those involved in the scam.

The parliamentary committee at a meeting on Monday  said the top leadership of the ministry, the chairman and other officials of the NOC board and other  NOC officials involved in the land procurement, those participating the tender process, local level officials and staff at the land revenue offices in the districts concerned  were found  to be responsible for embezzling a huge amount.

“All those involved were working in collusion to incur a maximum loss to NOC and money collected from the general public was misused,” reads the 45-page report in its conclusion and recommendations.

The report, which was prepared by a seven-member probe panel,  was endorsed by the parliamentary committee, Monday.

The NOC board has been found deviating from its responsibilities in entrusting to a single person a task of national importance involving a huge amount of money, according to the report. The committee report further states that NOC officials have been embezzling the money collected from consumers’ pocket. “The responsible NOC officials and board members should be held accountable and legal action taken,” reads the report.
Likewise, the report further mentions that the local level officials concerned should be brought under the ambit of the law for overvaluing the land to derive undue benefit. The report further suggested legal action against the tender bidders and brokers after further probing the scam.

Reiterating that the Supply Ministry was fully aware of the land purchase process, the report said claims by the prime minister and the supply minister that they were unaware of the scam were inaccurate.

The parliamentary probe panel had visited the sites of the lands bought by  NOC in the various districts, consulted with the land sellers and local level representatives, and discussed matters with NOC officials,  the supply minister himself and other ministry officials during the investigations.

Pointing out procedural flaws and errors in the land procurement process and in the bidding, the parliamentary panel mentioned that the embezzlement took advantage of legal loopholes. The report has stated that NOC has not followed the Land Acquisition Act, the Public Procurement Act and the tender bidding regulations.

Though Section 25 of the Land Acquisition Act allows for a fast-track procedure in buying land for government institutions,  NOC hadn’t followed the law, the report further said.  NOC was found to be writing to the Land Reform Ministry and the Nepal Trust office just for formality and only following directions from the parliamentary panel.

The report also states that NOC has paid three to four times the going price for the land, causing a huge financial burden to itself. “Though the land was bought through a bidding process, NOC paid many times more money than the existing rates,” reads the report.

After holding deliberations on the probe panel report, the Industry, Commerce and Consumer Rights Protection Committee of parliament  endorsed the report for tabling at the full House. The committee has directed the supply ministry to carry out further investigations.

 REPUBLICA

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