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Wide-body Plane Purchase And PAC

Issue January 2019

Wide-body Plane Purchase And PAC

Siddhi B Ranjitkar


The political Gai Jatra means absolute freedom has been going on in Nepal because of the Sub-committee the parliamentary Public Account Committee (PAC) has set up to take a look at the accounts of the purchase of a wide-body airplane for the Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) making public its report before submitting it to PAC, and then the government countering it setting up a so-called high-level committee for investigation into the same; however, the job of such investigation is of the Commission on Investigation into Abuse of Authority (CIAA). Both the government and the legislature ignored it.


After the PAC sub-committee even without submitting the report on the possible irregularities in the purchase of the wide-body plane made public, and ordered to arrest and take strong actions against the manager of NAC, and previous ministers and the current minister without considering whether the sub-committee has such an authority to do so or not.


Maybe, the government has been nervous about the findings of the sub-committee. Then the government set up another high level committee to ascertain what has been happening in the purchase of the plane again without thinking whether it is necessary to do so or not.


Let us see whether the government needs to set up such a high level committee to see any irregularities in the purchase of the plane or not. Frankly, the government does not need to do so because the government means the prime minister if he so wants could immediately ask his incumbent minister for bringing all the concerned files, and let his chief secretary and his assistants study them and then find out any irregularities in the process for buying a plane.


Any irregularities means punishment to anybody involved in such irregularities. That is it. Do the similar things to all the large, medium and even small projects that have been suffering from delay and disorder, and punish those officials involved in irregularities in the project implementation. These are the administrative actions the prime minister, his ministers and secretaries to the ministers could easily take.


Then, the corrupt ministers, bureaucrats and engineers and other technical personnel involved in the project implementation would be terrified as the spokesman for the ruling CPN had stated once while talking to the Radio Nepal anchor in its morning program called “antar-sambad”. This is called a rule of law.


Holding anybody involved in implementation of projects accountable for their actions and inactions is the rule of law. That is what would be the zero tolerance of corruption, the prime minister advocates for. Everybody from the project manager to the bureaucrats at the various levels of the bureaucracy and then the concerned ministers and finally the prime minister should be held accountable for the delay and irregularities in the project implementation. That is the rule of law.


If the prime minister did not want to take the troubles of asking his minister to bring all the concerned files then he could ask his minister or his chief secretary to inform the CIAA to take a look at the possible cases of irregularities in the buying of a wide-body plane for the NAC. Instead what the prime minister did was to set up a so-called high-level commission to check the possible irregularities in the purchase of the plane. The prime minister has just created a few jobs for the consultants or the bureaucrats for nothing.


The next thing the prime minister could do was just to wait for the report the PAC sub-committee has prepared. Surely, the PAC would not just pass on the report from the sub-committee to the government. The PAC would seriously study it and find out whether the report has no such bias that would backfire the PAC. However, the sub-committee making the report public without submitting it to the PAC has certainly undermined the validity of its report.


The government needs not to do whatever the PAC has stated to do in its report. The government has to simply follow the rules and regulations, and laws that are the tools for running the administration. If the government were to use such tools properly then nobody could raise any voice against anybody in the government. That would surely make the rule of law a reality.


Obviously, the prime minister, his ministers, and even the top bureaucrats have not consider these basic things of running the administration correctly and properly. So far, they have been doing almost everything in an ad hoc manner ignoring the rules and regulations and probably even laws. Then, the results are more often than not the corrupt officials escape from the possible punishment.


Take the example of the Revenue Investigation Regional Office of Pathalaiya having three cars with the same numbers and with the private license plates on them, the “gorkhapatra’ published the news with a picture of those three cars on its 14th page on January 6, 2019. Certainly, the two other cars have the fake license plates.


The prime minister needed to ask his finance minister why he had been sitting on such irregularities in the license plates of the vehicles. If those vehicles are private ones then the police need to take immediate actions against such culprits. If the culprits are the bureaucrats, then the finance minister if not the prime minister needs to punish those culprits. However, no such things have happened so far.


Probably, the prime minister has no time for such small or even minor things but vital for curbing the irregularities in the state businesses, as he has to prepare for the public events he so often attends, and he needs to think about how to make the audience laugh or entertain the audience with his so witty speeches.


However, folks would laugh for the last time if the prime minister with such majority votes of the people were to fail in holding the bureaucrats and the ministers accountable for their actions. The widespread irregularities in the project implementation and the State service delivery have been entirely due to not holding the bureaucrats and project managers accountable for what they do or what they don’t.


Now, whether the PAC could indulge in such a business of going after the management and the ministers involved in the purchase of the wide-body plane or not. Perhaps not, the PAC’s involvement in such a case would be only after the office of the Auditor General audits the accounts of the NAC buying the plane, and then submits it to the president that would send it to the parliament for the appropriate actions.


Then, the PAC could set up any sub-committee to see any irregularities in the accounts of buying the plane. The auditors of the office of the Auditor General are the authentic officials that could genuinely say what are according to rules and regulations or what are not. They also recommend what actions are to be taken against those that did not comply with the rules and regulations. The PAC has to simply take actions immediately following the recommendations of the Auditor General’s report, and recover the money from the concerned officials that have misappropriated.


The Auditor General has submitted a number of annual reports on the State accounts, and other State-run businesses, and has fond out thousands if not hundreds of thousands of irregularities in the accounts involving billions of rupees. Most of the money has to be recovered from the officials spending the money irregularly means not properly following the rules, and regulations.


Has the PAC done anything to recover those billions of taxpayers’ money, ministers, bureaucrats, project managers have spent without following the rules and regulations prescribed to follow? So far, nothing has been known publicly what the PAC has done to recover the money the State officials have spent without following the rules and regulations.


CIAA is the right authority to investigate the abuse of authority. So, both the legislature and the government have to ask the CIAA to conduct an investigation into the suspected irregularities in procuring a wide-body plane for international flights. CIAA would perform the investigation into the reported abuse of authority while purchasing the plane. Then CIAA would file a lawsuit against the officials abusing their authority at the Special Court, and the court rulings would not be the final, as the accused could appeal against the conviction at the Supreme Court for review.


The process for finding out the irregularities in buying the plane would take some time, and then CIAA filing the case at the Special Court. After the ruling of the Special Court, the accused could appeal the Supreme Court for the review of the ruling of the Special Court. All these administrative and law court operations would take some time.


Waiting for the Auditor General’s report also would take a year or so. Then, the legislature has to study the report before the culprits are brought to justice. So, the culprits could go free without having got punished for their wrong doings for some time.


If the government wants the fast results of dealing with such irregularities then it needs to follow the administrative process for bringing any culprits to justice.


So, the quickest path to resolve such problems of irregularities in the State businesses is the administrative action. Why the prime minister did not follow the quickest path rather set up a high-level committee to investigate the irregularities in the purchase of the plane might be for avoiding setting the tradition of holding the officials involved in this business accountable for their actions at the various stages of the process for procuring a plane.


The current system of CIAA investigating the corruption cases and then filing the cases at the Special Court have given the culprits to escape from the punishment for many years probably for the life, too, as the legal process could be lengthen indefinitely.


For example, currently, a politician also a former minister the Special Court indicted for the corruption has been enjoying the freedom from getting punished, as he has appealed to the Supreme Court for the review of the case, and the case has been there for years, and probably, the case might remain there for many years to come; who knows. His colleagues such as Khum Bahadur Khadka, and Jayaprakash Gupta served the jail term and came out.


So, the best way to get the culprits punish might be to give CIAA an authority to put the officials involved in corruption straight into jail and recover the money they have misappropriated, and let the culprits go to the law courts for the review of their cases. Such an arrangement would check the corruption cases considerably.


Currently, the officials involved even in the proved corruption cases have the chances of escaping punishment for corruption for many years, as a very smart former minister and politician has done so far.


January 6, 2019 

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