KATHMANDU, Sept 18: A proposal to sack Gopal Khadka, the controversial managing director of Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC), is set to be tabled in the cabinet meeting on Monday. Khadka faces charges of financial embezzlement in the purchase of land plots to build storage facilities for NOC in various parts of the country.
Minister for Supplies Shiva Kumar Mandal informed Republica that he will table a proposal to fire Khadka in the cabinet meeting on Monday. The government is preparing to take action against Khadka after a series of news reports on the NOC land purchase scam were published by Republica and Nagarik dailies over the past two months. No action has been taken against Khadka so far though media reports and five parliamentary committees have confirmed his involvement in the scam worth around Rs 1.5 billion.
Talking to Republica on Sunday evening, Minister Mandal said, “I am working on the proposal to sack Khadka. The study reports prepared by the parliamentary committees and the ministry’s own investigation are the supporting documents to sack him.”
“We have decided to sack him after concluding that there had been huge financial embezzlement while purchasing the land plots,” said Mandal, adding that Monday’s cabinet meeting will take the final decision on the issue. A committee formed by the ministry had confirmed financial embezzlement in the land procurement deals and recommended action against Khadka. A joint secretary at the ministry, Mukunda Paudel, also confirmed that the proposal to remove Khadka will be tabled in Monday’s cabinet meeting. Supplies Secretary Krishna Prasad Devkota, as the chair of NOC board, had forwarded the proposal to the supplies minister last week to take action against Khadka.
All quarters of society including the prime minister, political leaders including those in the government and opposition parties, student leaders, lawmakers, people who sold their lands to the NOC, and local representatives have said that there had been huge financial embezzlement in the land deals and those involved in the scam should be punished.
The government has been widely criticized for failing to take action against Khadka. Similarly the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority has also drawn public flak over its silence on the issue. The NOC paid Rs 2.32 billion for the land plots purchased in Jhapa, Sarlahi, Chitwan and Bhairahawa but it was revealed that the price paid was up to four times higher than the market price. Landowners who sold their land to the middlemen only got about Rs 557 million, a quarter of the total amount paid.
Talking to Republica, former Speaker Subas Nembang said that the government should immediately follow the directives of the parliamentary committees and sack Khadka. “The government’s snubbing the parliamentary directives is tantamount to contempt of parliament because the cabinet, prime minister and ministers are accountable to parliament,” explained Nembang. Parliament’s Good Governance Committee last week recommended the government to relieve Khadka of his post immediately. “Khadka has been found to be directly involved in the land purchase scam and he should not be allowed to remain in the post anymore,” said the committee in its directive to the government.
Earlier, parliament’s Public Accounts Committee, Good Governance Committee, Industry, Commerce and Consumer Welfare Committee, and Bills Committee reached a common conclusion that embezzlement indeed had taken place while purchasing the land and PAC also had recommended to the CIAA to take action soon after the issue was reported in the media.
This is not the first time, however, that Khadka has been accused of corruption at NOC. He had provided license for new LPG refilling plants and for LPG bullets by allegedly taking bribes. He was also severely criticized for non-transparent distribution of fuel during the Indian blockade.