Probe panel recommends action against Niroula
A probe panel formed to study financial irregularities in Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) has recommended action against its acting chief executive officer Subash Niroula.
The panel submitting 75-page report to minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Bhim Prasad Acharya today concluded that Niroula was found to have misused the board's fund in the name of tourism promotions.
The ministry had formed the committee on June 5 after Joint Tourism Coordination Committee (JTCC) – a forum of different travel trade associations – intensified protest against Niroula, affecting daily works of tourism promotion.
The five-member committee – led by joint secretary Purna Chandra Bhattarai – concluded that Niroula was involved in institutional and policy corruption by amending the board's Financial By-laws. The panel revealed that Niroula spent the board's fund at his discretion.
The amended bylaws had given power to the board's chief excessive right to spend freely without the need to follow the limit set by the Public Procurement Act. The bylaws have given the board's chief executive the right to spend up to Rs 10 million at a time for tourism promotion activities inside the country, and up to $400,000 at a time outside the country in his discretion.
Niroula had solely amended the by-laws and approved it through the executive committee of the board, said former president of Trekking Agencies´ Association of Nepal Deepak Mahat.
Likewise, a member representing the private sector in the probe panel Achyut Guragain said that there was mismatch between vouchers and payment.
Likewise, the report also revealed that the 192nd board meeting approved payment of Rs 74 million although majority of the board members were absent.
After the tourism entrepreneurs' 52-day-long agitation, Niroula has hired more than a dozen bouncers for his security, citing threats to his life. The bouncers were also paid from the board.
Meanwhile, the entrepreneurs have asked the ministry to make the report public – at the earliest – and forward it to Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA), the anti graft body.
However, the CIAA is also investigating the alleged financial irregularities in the board. The CIAA had also seized documents from the board on July 31 and provided them to the probe panel.
Niroula has also been found misusing fund in the name of tourism fairs in different parts of the country as well as in foreign land, Mahat said, adding that the private sector has demanded the board's structural revamp.
"If it is necessary, the ministry will send the committee’s report to CIAA too," tourism secretary Suresh Man Shrestha
Similarly, the report has also been asked to check expenditure of tax money collected from issuance of Trekkers Information Management System (TIMS) cards and the royalty raised by Nepal Mountaineering Association by issuing climbing permits.