Nepali Times
Domestic Brief
White paper, red paper

The Royal Nepal Airlines Corporation has brought out a "White Paper" on the controversial jet-leasing deal that has paralysed the country for the past few weeks. The RNAC says the leasing was done in accordance with its financial administration regulations and also complied with the government's own financial rules. It says all 18 of the airline's decisions to lease aircraft in the past had been done through direct negotiations. The paper says RNAC decided to go for direct negotiations after failing to acquire aircraft even after repeated attempts at open bidding as instructed by the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA).

The airline also says most of the decisions regarding leasing the aircraft were made before parliament's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) issued its cease orders on the deal. The procurement contract was finalised on 27 September 2000, while PAC's notice reached the corporation only on 20 November, weeks after the RNAC had made necessary arrangements for bank guarantees (on 31 October). The RNAC also claims that the second instruction from the PAC reached it only on 30 November, the day the Lauda aircraft had left Europe for Kathmandu.

Also in circulation is what is called a "red booklet" that sets to prove that there was corruption in the deal, without saying where, how much or how. The 27-page booklet entitled the Facts about Lauda Episode delves into the nitty-gritty of decision-making at the RNAC, pointing out that the corporation extended the lease of a Chinese aircraft for a year the same day the deal was signed with Lauda. Another point raised is that the leased aircraft is more than two years over the 10-year age limit of aircraft it said it would lease and that the plane did not belong to Lauda but had been sub-leased from a third Hong Kong party. The booklet also concludes that the corporation did not need the fourth jet (although RNAC says it fits into its 15-year expansion plan). The red document concludes that everyone from Prime Minister Koirala to the staff who assisted RNAC\'s former executive director Hari Bhakta Shrestha in clinching the deal is "responsible". (The CIAA is yet to press formal charges against any of these officials, including Shrestha who was suspended upon its recommendation.)

The paper concludes that because the prime minister was mainly responsible for the incident, it was objectionable for him to remain in PM. The little red book goes on to print flight use data and compares it with reduction in airline passengers-apples and oranges-and comes up with losses that have "resulted" from the deal. The little red book also contains an annexure of "secret" communication between the tourism ministry and the RNAC, and inter-office memos.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)