The Ministry of Tourism, in apparent hurry, removed Civil Aviation Director General Sanjaya Gautam from his post. Since the secretary for tourism was holidaying abroad, a joint secretary carried out the minister’s order and recalled Gautam to the ministry on short notice in contravention of the electoral code of conduct. The Election Commission has asked the tourism ministry to clarify its decision — the latter is yet to respond.
Gautam was the biggest obstacle in a suspected deal involving huge kickbacks between the top brass in the Ministry of Tourism led by Minister Jitendra Narayan Dev and a Spanish company that had bagged a Rs 7 billion contract for expansion of the Tribhuvan International Airport that turned out to be a defaulter.
Government authorities said a couple of commercial banks which had stood guarantor for the Spanish company Constructora Sanjose have already paid a substantial amount to the government after the Directorate General of the Civil Aviation concluded that the work progress was well below the agreed mark and decided that the contract should be terminated.
The DGCA, as well as the representatives of the government, had rejected the company’s claim of non-availability of soil to carry on construction and refilling work and that the massive earthquake in April 2015 along with series of aftershocks hampered their works on an unanticipated scale. The contractor had undertaken that it would expand the existing runway, refill certain areas, build terminal buildings in the country’s only international airport by 2017.
As Gautam took a rigid stance against any review of the decision to terminate the agreement, the company is believed to have threatened the government that it would take up the issue in an international court, something the DGCA believes is a mere ‘bargaining chip.’
It was at this stage that the Forum Loktantrik Party which controls the Ministry of Tourism in the coalition government, agreed to have Gautam removed so that the Spanish company can be paid a huge amount for ‘default because of a situation beyond its control.’
Nepal goes to poll for provincial and federal parliament polls in two phases on November 26 and December 7 — and electoral code of conduct prohibiting the government from taking any major decisions ortransferring officials has already come into force.