In response to the government threat to arrest them ,the tourism entrepreneurs have said that they will stop issuing TIMS card and ask central bank to block Nepal Tourism Board’s (NTB) bank accounts.
Tourism secretary Sushil Ghimire today warned the travel entrepreneurs that the government will come down heavily on them, if they continue their protest. However, the agitating entrepreneurs angered by the ‘irresponsible threat’, said they will instead step up their protest from tomorrow.
According to president of the National Tourism Entrepreneurs Association of Nepal Deepak Mahat, they were threatened by the secretary when they went to the ministry to discuss the financial irregularities and the appointment of new chief executive at the board. “But instead of settling the issues, secretary Ghimire threatened to arrest us,” he said, adding that the irate travel trade associations have announced stopping the issuance of Trekkers’ Information Management Systems (TIMS) cards to foreign trekkers from May 11.
Foreign trekkers are required to acquire a TIMS card before setting off on the trail.
As the March-June period is the second busiest tourist season in Nepal after the autumn season, the decision could affect a large number of trekkers.
But the trade entrepreneurs claimed that they wer forced to take such a harsh decision in response of the government apathy to investigate financial irregularities at the tourism board, president of the Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal (TAAN) Ramesh Dhamala said, adding that they will stop issuing the cards to foreign trekkers unless their demands are addressed by the government.
Likewise, the entrepreneurs have also decided to request central bank to block tourism board’s accounts.
The agitating associations have also decided to organise a rally at Thamel on May 8 and issue a white paper against the financial irregularities at the board.
The travel trade entrepreneurs have been accusing the board’s officiating chief executive Subash Nirola of promoting irregularities at the board by amending its bylaws and influencing the board members.
The board consists of 11 members, five each from government and private sector, apart from chairman. Secretary Ghimire chairs the board.
The entrepreneurs have also claimed to boycott the chairman for his irresponsible action. Some even claim that Nirola was not solely responsible for amending the bylaws, as it is the board’s chairman, who holds the final authority to endorse any legal documents.
The private sector has been agitating against the board since the past week after finding out that it had amended Financial Bylaws and had been misusing massive funds collected from tourists.
The amended bylaws allow the board chief executive to spend Rs 10 million at a time for tourism promotion activities inside the country. Similarly, the the chief executive can spend $ 400,000 at a time outside the country without following any due process of the Public Procurement Act. The CEO has also been given the power to spend $ 400,000 at a time through its honorary representatives and firms.
As per the new rules, the NTB can procure goods and services worth up to Rs 2.5 million through a quotation. The board can also purchase goods and services including its promotional materials through a single supplier directly through a written proposal.
According to the Public Procurement Act, procurement should not be done in a piecemeal manner which would limit competition. However, in a violation of the rules, the NTB can make piecemeal purchases under the new bylaws. In other words, it can buy goods in small amounts under the same procurement deal.
Meanwhile Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry has also supported the travel entrepreneurs protest against the board.