Lawmakers have decided to summon Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Bam Dev Gautam and Foreign Minister Mahendra Bahadur Pandey to explain the government’s controversial move to source country’s visa processing to a private firm.
A meeting of International Relations and Labour Relations Committee under the Legislature-Parliament on Wednesday decided to summon Gautam and Pandey, while expressing serious reservation over the move. The Home Ministry has tabled a proposal seeking a Cabinet approval to assign the Nepali visa processing to the international firm. The proposal is silent whether such international contract will be awarded through a competitive bidding or through negotiations.
“Allowing the private sector to process visa is shameful and act of utmost irresponsibility,” said former Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal, while speaking in the House meeting. He also cast doubt that the intent behind such move could be monetary gain and commission that the firm will offer upon landing the contract. “Though the Home Ministry is run by the UML, I will not accept any decisions that involve money.”
“Today, they are talking about awarding the visa processing job to a foreign firm. Tomorrow, they may suggest handing over the management of the nation to a private party,” Nepal said, calling for an immediate end to such irregularities.
Chunamani Jangali and Shyam Shrestha, were among other lawmakers, who came down heavily against the government proposal. “This is a very sensitive issue which can compromise the national security. It should be stopped immediately,” they said.
We have noticed several media reports on the proposed sourcing of visa processing, said panel’s President Prabhu Shah. “It was a very wrong decision,” he said, adding that they had decided to summon the ministers to understand the matter in detail.
Media reported that the Home and Finance ministries had secretly pushed the deal with a private firm. The officials involved in the negotiations were learnt to have been drafting the bidding documents to suit the company involved.
The ministries apparently decided to hand over the responsibilities of visa processing to a private company for 15 years, which some government officials claim, is a breach of the bidding process. Sources alleged involvement of hefty kickbacks behind the decision. They have proposed a processing charge of $25 for each
visa application. A total of 590,000 foreigners visited Nepal last year.