Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Lumbini Province MPAs spend millions in foreign junkets

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Butwal, 18 December (2020) - Members of the Provincial Assembly (MPA) in Lumbini Province took excessive travel allowances during India visit, Lokantar can reveal.

Members of a special committee of the Assembly formed to recommend the permanent capital and nomenclature of the then Province-5 (Lumbini) went for India junket last year.

The team comprised of 14 members including MPAs and civil servants. All of them took travel allowances of up to 100,000 rupees.

Before being phased out, the committee spent more than 5 million rupees in the name of district-wise suggestion collection, foreign visits and discussions with experts.

Travelling MPAs took 13,522 rupees per day for seven days amounting to 94,654 rupees, details made available by the Province Assembly Secretariat reveal.

Eleven MPAs were provided 1 million 41,198 rupees as travel allowances. Deependra Kumar Pun Magar was the coordinator of the committee while Sahas Ram Yadav, Nirmala Chhetri, Kalpana Pandey, Tara GC, Tulasi Prasad Chaudhary, Tej Bahadur Oli, Narayan Prasad Acharya, Baburam Gautam, Bir Bahadur Rana and Bishnu Prasad Panthi were the members travelling to India.

Secretary of Provincial Assembly Durlabh Kumar Pun, Assembly Spokesperson Shyam Prasad Shrestha, Information Officer Dinesh Adhikari and Accounts Officer Alok Agrahari were also in the team. These civil servants too have taken equivalent allowances.

The team had gone to India from 7 to 13 December 2019.

Information Officer at the Provincial Assembly Dinesh Adhikari said that the office holders and the Provincial members took allowances as provided by the law governing perquisites.

"The law provides for a daily allowance of 135 dollars to the provincial members during foreign visits," Adhikari told Lokantar. "MPAs and civil servants in the travelling team were provided allowances under that system. No one has flouted the law."

The MPAs have spent 179,616 rupees for flight expenses and 171,206 rupees for vehicle rent.

They had gone to Gorakhpur in India from Butwal on a reserved vehicle from where they boarded flights to Delhi, Chandigarh, and other Indian cities to learn from the local MLAs.

A committee for fixing permanent capital and nomenclature of the province was not necessary but it managed to spend more than 5 million rupees.

A little less than a year after that expensive junket, two-thirds majority of the Provincial assembly finalized the permanent capital and name of the province.

In October, the Provincial Assembly fixed the capital to be at Bhaluwang in Dang district and Lumbini as the name of the province.

Recommendation report of the committee was not paid any attention, rather the Provincial Assembly seconded the agreement between two chairmen in the ruling Nepal Communist Party.

Transparency International Nepal Chairman Khem Raj Regmi said that political leaders in Nepal have taken politics as money making business.

"They exploit legal loopholes to misuse their privileges. Policy corruption is done in a degrading manner in the name of legal allowances," Regmi told Lokantar.

Regmi commented that politicians in Nepal are living luxurious lives by misusing state coffers.

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