Army questioned over business deals

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2018 | | National

Members of the parliamentary State Affairs Committee have voiced concerns over the increasing involvement of Nepal Army in business-related activities.

At a closed-door meeting where journalists were barred, some parliamentarians on Tuesday demanded a high-level parliamentary committee to probe the alleged financial irregularities in the national defence force as reported by some media outlets, said a lawmaker on condition of anonymity.

The committee had summoned Acting Prime Minister and Defence Minister Ishwor Pokhrel, Defence Secretary Bishnu Lamsal and Chief of the Army Staff (CoAS) Purna Chandra Thapa to brief on the Army’s plans, activities and challenges. Parliamentarians are said to have raised questions over some controversial procurement deals involving the Army and media reports of huge amounts of money illegally earned by outgoing Army chief Rajendra Chhetri.

The defence secretary briefed the committee on the activities of the ministry including programmes on the pipeline and issues related to policy and legal reforms.

“Mostly, we raised our voice about the increasing role of Nepal Army in the business-related field including the Kathmandu-Tarai Fast Track project,” a lawmaker said. “But Acting PM Pokhrel defended the move saying that it was the political leadership that decided to award the contract to the Army.”

MPs questioned the Army chief about transparency of the force’s procurement process. NC lawmaker Amresh Kumar Singh asked Thapa about the deals while other lawmakers raised matters related to the NA welfare fund, and corruption allegations involving former chief Chhetri. Responding to the queries, CoAS Thapa said the military court looks into such cases. He invited lawmakers to the Army headquarters to get the details. Nepal Communist Party (NCP) lawmaker Nawaraj Silwal asked why the Army cancelled the scheduled Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) military exercise in India. CoAS Thapa responded that it was decided by the government.

The Army withdrew from the controversial BIMSTEC military exercise following the prime minister’s instruction on September 7.

Some lawmakers had asked Thapa whether the NA could manage the movement of President without disturbing traffic movement as the existing practice draws widespread criticism.