The Nepali Embassy in the United States is all set to buy a new residence for ambassador Arjun Karki in Washington DC for US$ 7.25 million (Rs 750 million) which is almost equal to the price of former US President Barak Obama’s residence.
After adding around three percent closing fee, which is mandatory for the buyers, the Nepali ambassador’s proposed residence will become more expensive than Obama’s new house bought last year. Currently, Nepal owns a four-story residence for its ambassador in the heart of DC.
The Office of the Auditor General and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) have suspected that the decision to buy the new residential building in DC could be motivated by lucrative commissions. A minimum six percent commission is legal in the US on the purchase of a residential building, while the commission on a commercial building is only around two percent.
Some staffers at the Nepali Embassy and MoFA are against the idea of buying a residence for the ambassador in the US, as there already is a fine residence at a prime location.
Nepali Embassy spokesman Jeevan Prakash Shrestha said that the embassy is all set to buy a house in Washington DC following the decision of the government. “The Government of Nepal has asked the embassy to buy a new residence as the present residence doesn’t have space for parties and meetings,” he said.
Talking to Republica over the telephone on Sunday evening, he claimed that the price of the house won’t exceed the budget allocated by the government for the purpose. “The house we are planning to buy is a bit expensive because only a few houses meeting the government criteria were available in the area,” Shrestha defended the move to buy the expensive residence. But multiple sources at the embassy and MoFA in Kathmandu said that the price of the new residence being bought is about eight million US dollars.
Earlier, the OAG had asked the government not to buy any expensive residential building which could add a burden of extra maintenance cost on the state. “Why not buy an apartment at around US$ 740,000 to 925,000 (80 to 100 million rupees) to save the cost? What is the motive behind buying an 8-9 million dollars residence when there is already a four-story residence?” MoFA had sought a 9-point clarification from the embassy following the OAG report.
The Nepali embassy had published a tender notice for residence procurement last year in a Washington-based newspaper. The process of procurement has reached the conclusive stage this year ignoring all procurement procedures. Sources said that the maintenance cost of the building will be around USD 20,000 a month.
The government had allocated over one billion rupees to buy apartments for the residence of the embassy staffers, according to the OAG report. Embassy spokesman Shrestha, however, said they have no plan to buy any residence for the staffers anytime soon. He further informed that about USD 16,000 is spent on renting apartments for six embassy staffers in DC.
According to Redfin, a real estate broker in the US, the price of the residential building which the Nepali embassy is all set to buy is US$ 7.25 million (around 750 million rupees). The house has 10,000 square feet area with balconies, terraces with long views, grounds, pool and lawn for croquet or soccer, and a separate exercise studio and entertainment pavilion.
The Nepali Embassy in the US has been complaining to the government about congested office space for long, said former ambassador to the US Shankar Sharma. “The need to buy an embassy building or quarters for staffers had been realized during my tenure as well, but I don’t know about the ambassador’s residence,” Sharma said.
The incumbent ambassador Karki has pushed the idea of relocating the embassy to his present residence after he moves to his new residence. However, an official at the embassy said that the US State Department and Homeland Security won’t allow any office in the residential area against the rules.