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Briefing or briefcase?

Monday, September 18th, 2017
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BREAKING: Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) Managing Director Gopal Khadka was sacked by the cabinet today. This op-ed was published before his removal

Guna Raj Luintel in Nagarik daily, 17 September

A newly appointed minister summons the Managing Director of a Public Enterprise under his ministry for briefing. The MD reaches the ministry with progress reports and future plans, but the minister is not interested in his briefing he is more interested in the briefcase.

“Mr MD, what’s in it for me,” the minister asks.

When the MD says there isn’t anything, that is the end of the briefing. The MD returns to his office, and weeps. The minister then asks his confidantes how to replace an MD who is “too honest” with someone who can siphon kickbacks to him and his party.

This is the pitiable state of affairs in Nepal today. Only those who deliver briefcases full of money to ministers and their parties can hold top government positions. This bare-faced corruption is leading to democratic decay and impunity.

Until 2006, we blamed the monarchy for everything that was wrong in our country. That was not completely untrue, but the kleptocracy of one king has been replaced by the plunder of multiple kings.

In 1995, Prime Minister Manmohan Adhikari picked a UML cadre Lok Krishna Bhattarai to head the Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC). But Adhikari found out that all his predecessors used to pay Rs 120 million to the queen to get the appointment. Adhikari told me about how he was kicked out of the NOC after he exposed this corruption.

If NOC executives used to pay millions to the palace two decades ago, they now pay billions to political parties. This explains why the ruling and opposition parties are mum even when media is awash with exposés of corruption within the NOC.

Since Gopal Khadka’s appointment as the NOC Chief in January 2015, the state-owned petroleum monopoly has been rocked by a series of mega scams. Several parliamentary committees and probe panels have found him guilty, but neither the Minister of Supplies or the anti-corruption watchdog dare take action against him.

In November 2015, the NOC Board of Directors, chaired by Supply Minister Ganesh Man Pun, held Khadka guilty in a corruption case. Pun publicly vowed to remove Khadka, but he was protected by then-CIAA Chief Lokman Singh Karki.

Karki is gone, but Khadka has kept the CIAA on his side and no one else dares to touch him. The government is afraid to sack him, UML Chair KP Oli also doesn’t dare utter a word against him.

The same government that has allowed Khadka to loot the country is preparing to sack the Civil Aviation Authority Nepal General Manager Sanjeev Gautam without substantial charges in which the state stands to lose billions.

Gautam terminated an agreement with Spanish contractor Constructora Sanjose for upgrading Tribhuvan International Airport, citing non-performance and failure to meet deadlines. Sanjose filed a lawsuit demanding Rs 4.60 billion in damages, and two local courts in Nepal, a Spanish court and one in Singapore have already ruled in its favour. Gautam’s removal will weaken CAAN’s defense against Sanjose’s lawsuit. There appears to be a nexus between politicians and Sanjose to remove Gautam.

If Sanjose wins it can get back a Rs 7 billion compensation and surety bond seized by the government, and probably everyone will get a share. That the government began preparations for Gautam’s removal just when Sanjose representatives were in Kathmandu is no coincidence.

These two examples of NOC and CAAN show just how broken our system is, and only a new revolution can fix it.

(Gun Raj Luintel is the editor of Nagarik Daily)

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2 Responses to “Briefing or briefcase?”

  1. riturajonta on Says:

    what do you mean new revolution? the same kind of revolution that created the multiple kings rather then one.

  2. Who teaches us democracy? – Kanak Mani Dixit on Says:

    […] Bahadur Thapa (including his just-released book on corruption in Nepal Rajgaj), and the slew of recent investigative reports in the […]

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