Kathmandu, August 8
Nepal Oil Corporation’s recent purchase of land in four places of the country to build petroleum storage facilities has been dragged into controversy. Various parliamentary committees and Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority have launched investigations into the case.
Parliament’s Public Account Committee has already concluded that the deals involved number of irregularities whereas the Industry, Commerce and Consumer Welfare Committee is conducting an on-site monitoring.
The NOC leadership is defending itself claiming the deals were made following set procedures. But, here are eight questions which the NOC officials are yet to answer:
1. Why more land?
The area of land NOC has purchased in all places–Jhapa, Sarlahi, Chitwan and Rupandehi–is more than that decided by its board. The NOC leadership has been claiming that it purchased more land than necessary considering ‘future need’.
2. Why a direct call for tenders?
Any government-run corporation should follow procedures set in the Land Acquisition Act, 1977 while purchasing land. The NOC, however, has followed Financial Administration and Procurement Regulations in making the deals. The NOC has claimed it did not follow the Land Acquisition Act as it would involve a lengthy process.
3. Why the rush?
A subcommittee formed to recommend the land purchase had suggested that the NOC carry out another study while purchasing the land in Sarlahi district. It had not given any clear recommendation about the land in Jhapa. But, the NOC purchased pieces of land in both the districts ignoring the subcommittee’s recommendations.
4. Why search for public land after the purchase?
The NOC leadership claimed that it wrote to the Ministry of Supplies seeking some public land after it already purchased lands in all four places. Though it has claimed that public land was sought in other places, concerned government officials say no such letter has been received ever.
5. Why not get consent from sellers?
The NOC has failed to make public the consent previous landowners gave to sell their lands. Laws have it that no land can be purchased unless receiving the consent from owner or an authority in the name of bid applicant.
6. Why was the maximum price, criteria and quality of land not specified?
The NOC did not say anything about maximum price, criteria and quality of lands in its call for tenders. It has called for applications on the basis of budget approved by the board of directors for the land purchase.
Perhaps this is why, the NOC’s land has been inundated by Rohini Khola in Rupandehi.
7. Why was the board kept in the dark?
It has been found that NOC Executive Director Gopal Bahadur Khadka has kept the board of directors headed by the Secretary at Ministry of Supplies in the dark about the deals.
8. Where is the pay of brokers?
The NOC has says it has to pay some money to brokers who facilitated the deal between it and landowners. But, only 95 per cent of the payable amount has been paid to the agents so far whereas the sellers have already received the entire sums. Where did the five per cent go?