Three major agencies under the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation–Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC), Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) and the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (Caan)–are facing the leadership vacuum due to resignation, corruption charges, bureaucratic hurdles, among other reasons.
Given political influence, uncertainty shrouds over new appointments to fill the vacuum at these agencies. NTB, the country’s tourism promotional body, which has been without the chief executive officer for the last three and a half years now faces another daunting task to run the understaffed organisation. The government is yet to appoint a new CEO to replace Prachanda Man Shrestha whose tenure expired on October 31, 2011.
On Friday, the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) formally charged 23 incumbent and former officials with policy and institutional corruption at the NTB. That has left the board without top executives, creating a total vacuum at the organisation.
Ten executives, including two senior directors, two directors and four managers were automatically suspended following the CIAA filed a corruption case against them on Friday. The then officiating CEO Subash Nirola was suspended in December last year.
“It’s grave situation as there are no heads of three major agencies of the ministry,” said Buddhi Sagar Lamichhane, joint-secretary at the ministry. “Except those issues under the court jurisdictions, the government is committed to fill the vacant positions as soon as possible.”
Also implicated in the case is Caan Director General Ratish Chandra Lal Suman, who holds a seat on the NTB board. Suman was due to retire on the ground of age on May 6.
The current leadership vacuum has affected the daily operations of country’s civil aviation, a very technical and heavily-regulated global industry.
Caan officials said the senior deputy director general would take reins of the organization unless the new chief is appointed but they are unsure how long it would take.
“With a number of projects and safety issues on hand, delay in the appointment of the director general could affect the aviation industry,” said the officials.
The NAC is also in the similar situation. The vacuum there is likely to persist longer after beleaguered Madan Kharel quit as the NAC managing director under political pressure with 18 months still left on his contract. An NAC chief is appointed through an open competition.
Chairman of the Public Enterprises Board (PEB) Bimal Wagle, who is responsible to appoint the chief at the public enterprise (PEs), said that the Supreme Court has cleared the deck for carrying out its regular job, including appointments at the PEs. He insisted the appointment process would begin at the NAC as soon as the board gets a detailed version of the court verdict. “The national flag carrier is our top priority,” he said.
According to him, the Tourism Ministry should ask the PEB to replenish the vacant NAC post. The process to fill the vacancy would begin immediately after the respective ministries give a go-ahead. “It will take at least 41 days to appoint the chief after the vacancy announcement,” Wagle said.
Piling more misery on the country’s tourism sector, the European Commission has issued travel advisories to its nationals, cautioning them against visiting Nepal due to “poor” air safety. With a myriad inefficiencies, including shoddy airports, mismanagement of national parks, already pegging back the industry, the latest episode is set to make Nepal’s target to count more tourists doubly difficult.