Minister Adhikari denies his involvement in aircraft procurement scam

Kathmandu, Jan 7: Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, Rabindra Adhikari, has denied his involvement in the procurement of wide-body aircraft for the national flag-carrier Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC).

As the minister said the line minister has legally no role except policy level leadership in the institutional process to purchase the wide-body aircraft for the state-owned airlines company.

In his replies to queries raised in a meeting of the Public Account Committee today regarding the procurement scam, he pledged his cooperation in the investigation into the alleged embezzlement in the procurement process.

According to him, the NAC had already finalized the schedule for payment in the procurement agreement before he assumed the office and the arrival of the wide-body aircrafts on time would not have been possible if the clearance of third installment was stopped, which would put the nine billion rupees at risk.

He questioned the gathering where ministry secretary and other responsible officials and journalists were present that who would take up the responsibility if the aircraft had not arrived on time or the amount was at risk, pushing the NAC to the brink of bankruptcy.

He went on to say that the Supreme Court had already issued its verdict citing that there seemed no reason to halt the procurement process before he took the charge of ministry and that the Auditor General questioned over the procurement process but had not directed to stop the process; and amidst all this that no direction was given from the Public Account Committee.

In his reply to a question whether the payment was made following the permission from the Auditor General, he said only informal talks were held with the Auditor General before clearing the installment by the NAC.

As he said, he later realized that he earlier gave the statement before the Committee that no payment was made for the procurement during his term at the Ministry without consulting the NAC.

“However, it is not the Ministry which makes the payment. The NAC is an independent body and the Ministry had only permitted it for the monetary exchange. I have no involvement on the matter.”

The Civil Aviation Minister promised his full support and cooperation in all sorts of investigations into the matter to be undertaken by the parliamentary committee, regulatory body and the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA). He expressed his hope that facts related to the issue would come out and all the confusions and illusions persisting at the moment would be cleared.

“I have trust on parliament and the regulatory body as well as media. I do not call anyone biased and all will be proved in future,” he said, adding that he was ready to own up the responsibility if any weakness, fault or irregularities were proved during his term and to be testified against any sorts of harsh allegations and that he would not be swerved from his stand.

He took a time to claim that he was into politics not for power or a post, expressing his determinations to continuously contributing to the efforts meant for achieving national development and prosperity, fighting with those forces wishing to leave the NAC bankrupt.

Ministry Secretary Krishna Devkota said the procurement process was made as per a due process and though the PAC in the past had shown its concern over the matter, but issued no direction. RSS

Photo By : Mukunda Kalikote/NepaliReporter