KATHMANDU, Jan 12: Election of the parliament's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairperson scheduled for Wednesday was canceled at the last hour following a dispute between CPN-UML and CPN (Maoist Center) over divvying up the chairperson positions of various 14 parliamentary committees.
Both the UML and CPN (Maoist Center) have staked claims for the head of the parliamentary watchdog committee.
After PAC chairman Janardan Sharma resigned the post on August 12, after being appointed to minister, the committee has remained headless for five months.
The CPN-UML has been claiming the PAC chairmanship saying that the post is traditionally held byt the main opposition party.
"As the PAC is mainly tasked with overseeing the government activities and we have the tradition of appointing the chairperson from the opposition party, there should not be any dispute over the post," said UML lawmaker Bikas Lamsal. He further said his party will have no problem quitting the PAC chair should the party joint the government in future.
While resigning from PAC chairman post in August last year, Maoist Center lawmaker Sharma had said that he had paved the way for the opposition party to lead the committee.
"We are ready to give the PAC chair post to the CPN-UML if the party quits any other parliamentary committee chair position so as to maintain a balance in power-sharing," said Maoist Center Chief Whip Tek Bahadur Basnet.
According to Basnet, if the PAC chair is given to the CPN-UML, the Maoist Center will be left with just one committee to head. But the UML will be heading five committees. "Earlier, there was agreement among the parties to allocate committee head positions -- four each to Nepali Congress (NC) and UML, two to Maoist Center and one each to the Rastriya Prajatantra Party, Madhes-based parties and fringe parties," said Basnet.
However, UML is not ready to give any parliamentary committee to the Maoist Center.
"The Maoist Center can head the newly-formed Impeachment Recommendation Committee so there is no point for the Maoist Center to hanker for PAC chair," said Lamsal of UML.
Asked about the UML proposal, Maoist Chief Whip Basnet said the UML's proposal is not acceptable to his party.
With the dispute getting no headway, Speaker Onsari Gharti asked the parliament secretary to put off the election schedule until further notice.
The parliamentary regulations state that a parliamentary committee must elect its chair within a month of convening its meeting under the leadership of the eldest member of the committee.
After Sharma's resignation, the PAC held its meeting on January 3 under the chairmanship of its eldest committee member Sarbendra Nath Sukla.