CIAA files corruption case against Nirola, 22 others at Special Court

Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) on Friday filed corruption case against 23 persons, including two government secretaries and acting CEO of Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) Subash Nirola, after finding their involvement in financial irregularities worth around Rs 700 million in NTB.

CASES ALSO FILED AGAINST TWO GOVT SECRETARIES

Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) on Friday filed corruption case against 23 persons, including two government secretaries and acting CEO of Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) Subash Nirola, after finding their involvement in financial irregularities worth around Rs 700 million in NTB.

Along with Nirola, CIAA has filed case against Sharad Chandra Poudel, secretary at the Ministry of Forest and Land Conservation; Ranjan Krishna Aryal, secretary of the Law Commission; Dilli Prasad Shivakoti, joint secretary of the Ministry of Finance; Megh Bahadur Pandey, joint secretary of Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation; and Ratish Chandra Lal Suman, director general of Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN).

Finance Secretary, Forest Secretary and CAAN DG are ex-officio members in NTB’s executive committee.

As per the existing laws, government officials are automatically suspended once corruption case if filed against them.

Similarly, cases have also been filed against Sushil Ghimire, former tourism secretary and former chairman of executive committee of NTB, executive committee members as well as NTB staffers.

In its charge sheet, CIAA has claimed Nirola was involved in irregularities worth Rs 330 million.

CIAA officials had reached the Special Court premises to register the case on Thursday. But Special Court officials asked them to come on Friday, citing end of office hours.

The Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA) had suspended Nirola on October 26 as per the direction of the Public Accounts Committee of legislature-parliament.

According to news reports, cases have been filed against NTB’s Acting CEO Nandini Lahe Thapa, Senior Director Aditya Baral,  directors Hikma Singh Ayer and Kashi Raj Bhandari; Officiating Director Dhruba Rai, senior manager Diwakar Rana, managers Leela Bahadur Baniya and other staff members like Anil Kumar Das and Laxman Gautam among others.

Tourist arrivals down marginally

Tourist arrivals to Nepal via air dropped by a marginal 0.3 percent to 585,981 in 2014 compared to figures of a year.

Tourist arrivals to Nepal via air dropped by a marginal 0.3 percent to 585,981 in 2014 compared to figures of a year.

This is the second straight year that Nepal has witnessed fewer tourist arrivals via aerial route. In 2013, tourist arrivals had dropped by 1.73 percent to 587,842. Number of tourists in 2012, however, had increased by 9.8 percent to 598.204.

Drop in tourist arrivals have been blamed to the impacts of avalanche in the Everest region in April and blizzards in the Annapurna Region in October. Similarly, closure of casinos and travel advisory to European visitors by the European Commission not to use Nepali airlines also affected tourist arrivals, according to tourism entrepreneurs.

Issuing a statement, Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) said Nepal observed a sustained growth in international tourist arrivals in January, February, April and May but suffered a fall from June onwards. “The decline suggests that Nepal needs to promote its tourism products in the international market more aggressively in order to increase tourist arrivals,” the statement added.

Arrivals from India increased by fell by 35.46 percent to 105,283. However, number of tourists from China increased by 17.86 percent to 71,107 in 2014.

CIAA prepares to file corruption case against Nirola

The Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) is preparing to file corruption against the then acting CEO of NTB Subash Nirola after confirming his involvement in misappropriation of millions of rupees in NTB.

The Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) is preparing to file corruption against the then acting CEO of NTB Subash Nirola after confirming his involvement in misappropriation of millions of rupees in NTB.

CIAA has directed the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA) to suspend Nirola from the post after finding his involvement in embezzlement of more than Rs 50 million in the name of tourism promotion.

On October 30, MoCTCA suspended Nirola until January-end as per the direction of the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC). PAC took the decision after studying report prepared by a committee led by joint secretary Purna Chandra Bhattarai.

MoCTCA had formed probe committee under Bhattarai after tourism entrepreneurs, at the call of Joint Tourism Coordination Committee (JUTCC), bivouacked in NTB premises for nearly two months, barring Nirola from the office. The protest had affected tourism promotional activities of NTB.

CIAA has also directed the tourism ministry to produce Nirola before CIAA for interrogation. It plans to charge-sheet Nirola in the court after interrogating him. “The Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation has been hereby directed to suspend and present Nirola before the CIAA as retaining him to the post could result in loss and destruction of evidences,” CIAA said in a statement.

According to the probe report, Nirola had coerced the executive committee of NTB to amend its financial by-laws which authorized him to award contracts sans competitive, bypassing the Public Procurement Act. Similarly, it authorized NTB CEO to spend up to Rs 10 million at a time for tourism promotion in Nepal and up to US$ 400,000 in foreign countries.

Govt appoints three board members in NTB

The government has appointed tourism entrepreneurs Phurba Gyalzen Sherpa, Rajendra Sapkota and Ghanendra Bahadur Shrestha as members in the executive committee of Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) from the private sector.

The government has appointed tourism entrepreneurs Phurba Gyalzen Sherpa, Rajendra Sapkota and Ghanendra Bahadur Shrestha as members in the executive committee of Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) from the private sector.

A ministerial level meeting chaired by Tourism Minister Deepak Chandra Amatya held at the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation took the decision on Thursday evening took the decision.

The meeting selected the three tourism entrepreneurs from a list of five recommended by a selection committee led by Joint Secretary Umakanta Parajuli. Former President of Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal (TAAN) Sitaram Sapkota and tourism entrepreneur Chandra Rijal were members of the selection committee.

This is Sherpa’s second term in the NTB’s executive board. Similarly, Sapkota is the chairman of Tourism Area Committee of CPN-UML. Likewise, Shrestha is the treasurer of Hotel Association of Nepal (HAN). As per the NTB Act, five representatives from private sector have to be nominated to the executive committee of NTB.

The ministry appointed only three private sector representatives in the executive committee as two incumbent members — Dhruba Narayan Shrestha and Rebat Bahadur Thapa  – still has tenure of another two years.

Govt reduces Everest climbing fee

The government has reduced Mt Everest climbing permit fee for foreign climbers by more than 50 percent. It has also reduced permit fee for all peaks opened for mountaineering.

The government has reduced Mt Everest climbing permit fee for foreign climbers by more than 50 percent. It has also reduced permit fee for all peaks opened for mountaineering.

Officials say the new move is aimed at increasing the number of mountaineers in the country.

The government had reduced permit fee for Nepali climbers about a year ago. The new climbing fee for foreign climbers came into effect from January 1.

Officials of Department of Tourism (DoT) say reduction in climbing permit fee will relay positive message about Nepal in international arena.

Now onwards, foreign climber will need to pay US$ 11,000 per person for climbing Mt Everest via normal route in the spring season. Earlier, they need to pay $25,000 per person. For other routes, permit fee has been fixed at $10,000 per person. Earlier, climbers were required to pay $15,000 per person.

Similarly, permit fee to climb Mt Everest via normal in autumn season has been revised to $5,500 per person. Earlier, mountaineers were required to pay $12,500 per person.

The permit fee has been revised as per the recommendations of a committee led by Purna Chandra Bhattarai formed to review existing permit fee.

Similarly, permit fee for mountains above 8,000 meters, excluding Mt Everest, has been fixed at $1,800 per person. Likewise, permit for mountains between 7,500 meters to 7,999 has been fixed at $600 per person and permit for mountains between 7,000 meters to 7,499 meters has been fixed at $500.

Altogether 1,792 mountains have been identified in Nepal. Of them, 326 peaks have been opened for mountaineering. Eight of 14 peaks above 8,000 meters, including Mt Everest – the tallest peak on earth – lie in Nepal.