The Tourism Ministry on Thursday suspended Anil Das from the post of manager at the Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) with immediate effect for his alleged role in misappropriating millions of rupees in public funds.
A meeting chaired by Tourism Secretary Suresh Man Shrestha took the decision, following the instruction from the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) to immediately remove Das from his post. Das, who manages the NTB’s accounts, has been summoned to the CIAA on Friday.
Following the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) directive on October 30, the 196th board meeting of the NTB had suspended Subash Nirola from the posts of officiating CEO and director on the charge of institutional corruption. A government probe committee had recommended action against Nirola, including the heads of corporate and account departments, but no action has been initiated against the corporate head
Meanwhile, the NTB has informed the anti-graft body that it had deposited Rs 9.75 million into the board’s account that was advanced to 37 permanent and 12 contract staffers. The amount was reimbursed with interest last Friday.
The refund was made after the CIAA found that NTB officials had been causing delay in settling advance payments. The CIAA, investigating the NTB corruption issues since June, had on November 22 directed the board to deposit the payment advanced to the staffers.
Contrary to the legal provision that requires the advance payments should be settled within 35 days after the accomplishment of the programmes or projects, NTB officials failed to clear their dues. A 10 percent penalty is slapped if the payment is not settled within that period. The
board has raised Rs 942,818 in penalty.
Sources said the anti-graft body would present the accused before the court soon. “Investigation concerning the NTB is ongoing,” said CIAA spokesperson Shreedhar Sapkota.
A PAC probe team, in its investigation report submitted to the ministry, has revealed massive irregularities in the board, resulting in the loss of millions of rupees. The report says the country’s tourism promotion body is wreaked by policy and financial corruption.
PAC has also asked the ministry to urge the CIAA to begin legal proceedings against former NTB chairman Sushil Ghimire and the board of directors charged with abetting corruption. But the CIAA has not initiated any action against them, according to sources.
The board had amended its Financial Bylaws enabling it to award contracts without competitive bidding in breach of the Public Procurement Act (PPA) that stipulates mandatory tender calls for any procurements at public offices.
The amendments vested the NTB head with sweeping powers to dispense cash, allowing the board CEO to spend up to Rs 10 million at a time for tourism promotion activities inside the country.