With about two and a half months left for the fiscal year to end, the Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) has been able to spend less then 10 percent of its budget allocation for tourism promotion as a result of recurring scandals over alleged kickbacks and corruption.
The tourism promotion body’s annual budget had jumped to Rs1.10 billion during this fiscal year from Rs580 million after the government allowed it to hike the tourism service fee to Rs1,130 from Rs565 in March 2014.
“Various scandals and protests have severely affected Nepal’s tourism promotional activities this year,” said Ramesh Kumar Adhikari, newly appointed chief administrator at the NTB. He added that the unspent money would be carried over to the next fiscal year.
Adhikari along with a five-member working sub-committee formed by the government officially began their work at the board on Thursday. On April 6, an emergency board meeting of the NTB had decided to form a five-member sub-committee amid fears that lack of top executives following a corruption scandal could affect the day-to-day activities at the country’s tourism promotion body.
The Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) had then charged 23 incumbent and former NTB officials with policy and institutional corruption.
“We have the responsibility to spend a huge chunk of money for the country’s tourism promotional activities, and we have officially moved ahead,” Adhikari said.
As the NTB was understaffed and it would be a challenge to perform its tasks efficiently, Adhikari said that they would request the government to fill the vacancies, mostly at the director and manager levels, as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, the Tourism Ministry said that appointing a CEO at the NTB was not immediately possible due to a number of legal issues.
The NTB, charged with promoting Nepal’s tourism in the national and international arenas, has been stumbling along without its head since the then CEO Prachanda Man Shrestha’s tenure expired on October 31, 2011.
However, the ministry said that it was preparing to amend the NTB Act to make the appointment process of the chief executive easier. Under the NTB Act and Regulation, a three-member sub-committee should be formed from among the five members representing the private sector on the board to appoint the CEO. Uma Kanta Parajuli, joint secretary at the ministry, said that the government had formed a panel to provide suggestions to amend the act. The panel has been given 15 days to submit its report with appropriate recommendations.
The CEO selection process had stalled several times due to a conflict of interest among the members. As the board will not be able to induct board members representing the private sector immediately, the ministry is finding an appropriate way to form a CEO selection sub-committee, Parajuli said.
The CIAA has also filed charges at the Special Court against four board members, namely Rewat Bahadur Thapa, Dhruba Narayan Shrestha, Phur Gyalzen Sherpa and Pumpha Dhamala representing the private sector.