Travel trade sectors in war path

Image: Tourism Board
Image: Tourism Board

KATHMANDU, Nepal– Citing that intentionally exclusion of private sector representatives at the probe panel would help influence the matter, agitating travel trade entrepreneurs have protested against the panel constituted by the government to look into charges of financial irregularities at the Nepal Tourism Board (NTB). Bowing down to a 12-day-long protest programme by the private sector, the Tourism Ministry constituted a three-member probe panel on Sunday. The ministry’s move comes after sever criticisms from the lawmakers that the government turned a deaf ear to the Board’s ‘financial irregularities’ alleged by the private sectors. Charging Board officials of practicing irregularities by rectifying its financial bylaws in dispute of the Public Procurement Act (PPA), private travel traders took to the streets, two weeks ago. The panel headed by Purna Chandra Bhattarai, joint-secretary at the Ministry, includes an undersecretary of the Finance Ministry and an account officer of the Tourism Ministry. The panel has been given two weeks to submit a report. The panel has been entrusted with the task of studying the amended financial bylaws and recommending necessary action. Similarly, it has been asked to probe into the income and expenditure of the Board for the past three years and advise the government to adopt any measures if financial misconduct is found. Other tasks told to panel are analyzing the complaints lodged against NTB at the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) and other agencies, investigating the spending of tax garnered while issuing Trekkers Information Management System (TIMS) cards to foreign trekkers. In the meantime, the Ministry has appealed in a press statement to the agitating travel traders to draw back their protest against the Board. However, the disgruntled entrepreneurs said that the panel was unacceptable to them since it barred any private sector representatives. Private sectors have speculated that the panel formed under the Ministry would exercise influence the matter. The amended bylaws that have upset the tourism industry have given the NTB’s chief executive exclusive rights to spend freely in excess of the limit set by the PPA.

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