The government had accused National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) chief Sushil Gyewali of delaying earthquake relief and threatened to sack him. But his removal was itself delayed for months.
Finally on Wednesday the Cabinet fired Gyewali, and decided to bring back Govinda Pokharel.
Two weeks ago, the government had instructed Gyewali to clarify why he failed to expedite post-earthquake reconstruction work. Not satisfied with the combatant Gyewali who accused the prime minister of not cooperating with him, the government last week asked him again to defend his case.
In his both clarification letters, Gyewali claimed that he did not receive support from the government to expedite post-earthquake recovery. Gyewali was hand-picked by K P Oli and the Maoists-NC government had never seen eye-to-eye with him.
Govinda Pokharel was the first CEO of the NRA, and was himself unceremoniously removed when Oli became Prime Minister in October. Earthquake relief is a political hot potato and rival parties wanting to take credit for effective relief have cancelled each other out.
After the 25 April 2015 earthquake, Pokharel, as the National Planning Commission (NPC) Vice Chair led a team that prepared the Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) report – the blueprint of the post-earthquake recovery.
Since Pokharel, the German-trained engineer, was involved in the formation of the NRA, he is expected to hit the ground running, and is perceived by many as a much more efficient senior bureaucrat.
He will enjoy political support for at least two years, as his Nepali Congress mentors are poised to lead the next government. But Gyewali’s dismissal has further irked the UML, and the main opposition will be looking for an opportunity to strike back.
As political parties continue to bicker over who should lead the NRA, nearly 500,000 families are still forced to live under tarps almost two years after the earthquake. So far, only 452,887 families have received just the first Rs 50,000 instalment of the Rs 300,000 reconstruction grants.
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