Nepali Times
From The Nepali Press
Why UML cries foul about Lauda

Using the Lauda Air issue as a shield, the UML has been able to hide corruption that took place in the China South West Airlines (CSWA) deal some years ago. Two parliamentary committees were formed to look into the irregularities that took place in both the Lauda and CSWA deals by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) The chief of the committee investigating the CSWA deal is Budhiman Tamang of the RPP, the two members are Pari Thapa of the Rastriya Jan Morcha and Rajendra Pandey of the UML.

The parliament has not been allowed to function since its opening, which has come as blessing for the opposition party because the PAC team has not been able to look into the CSWA deal. The committee was all set to meet, but Rajendra Pandey was hurt in the scuffle that took place in parliament and had to be hospitalised. This means that the committee will not be able to present its findings in the present session of parliament.

According to sources at RNAC, there have been irregularities while the CSWA plane. To date RNAC has leased aircraft 19 times, and it has taken CSWA planes 9 times. In 7 out of the 9 instances a Left-led government was in power or a Leftist minister was in charge of RNAC. In most cases it was a member of the UML.

At present RNAC has one plane leased from CSWA. This aircraft was brought into the country in March 1999. It was about the time when the general election was held, Bhim Rawal was the tourism minister then. On 25 January 1999, RNAC called for bids for a wide-body Boeing with a capacity of 250 seats. On the day the tender was to close, 8 February, many interested parties had submitted the bids. But acting chairman BK Man Singh, who was brought into RNAC by minister Rawal disqualified all bidders. RNAC did not seek more tenders but Singh, without informing the RNAC board, went to China. On 4 March 1999, he leased a CSWA narrow-body jet (Boeing 757-200) on a wet lease and returned to Nepal with the pilots who had been hired. Sunil Rai, a member of the UML, and board director of RNAC at the time, had accompanied Singh to China. And even though Nepali pilots were capable of flying the said aircraft RNAC had settled for a wet lease. Nepali pilots went on a strike in protest but the strike was defused after 11 days. Foreign pilots are still flying the plane.

The tender had specifically stated that RNAC was looking to lease the aircraft on a dry lease. According to sources, the cost of the lease was US$ 2,850 per flight hour. The acting chairman then decided that the rate should be US$3,150 per hour. The commission worked out to be US$200 per flight hour and that was shared by the UML and high officials at the RNAC.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)