Commission game behind Baskota’s audio leakage

Prashant Ojha

February 20, 2020

11 MIN READ

Commission game behind Baskota’s audio leakage
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  

KATHMANDU: Not in the wildest of his dreams had Minister for Communication and Information and Technology Gokul Baskota even imagined that he would be compelled to step down abruptly.

Prior to his resignation late afternoon, Baskota had said he was ready to face any action if bribery charges against him were proven.

However, keeping in mind the possible outpour against the government already subject to critique for poor governance and poor performance,

Prime Minister KP Oli, in consultation with Nepal Communist Party Chairperson Puspa Kamal Dahal, decided to sack him from the post.

Here is how the issue of Security Press came to the fore

On January 6, 2020, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) was scheduled to discuss the complaints regarding the establishment of the Security Press.

After it received a complaint from a person called Prabesh Shrestha that there was going to be embezzlement worth approximately 10 billion rupees in the purchase of parts and machines meant for Security Press, PAC had decided to make it a subject for discussion.

In addition to the committee members, the meeting was attended by the representative of the parliamentary secretariat and the representative of the concerned ministry, there were two more people unknown to many members.

In the audio Mishra, one of the representatives on behalf of KBA-NotaSys of Switzerland has asked Minister Bakota to forward the procurement process under the condition that they would have 700 million as commission.

PAC Chairperson Bharat Shah introduced the strangers as the experts in the issue. The ‘strangers’ in the meeting were Bijaya Prakash Mishra and Sudip Raj Pandey.

Bijaya Prakash Mishra, who attended the PAC meeting is none other than the man alleged in the bribery-related audio of Baskota.

In other words, Mishra is the man with whom the Minister has bargained for 700 million as a bribe. The audio has the voice of Minister Baskota and Mishra.

In the audio Mishra, one of the representatives on behalf of KBA-NotaSys of Switzerland has asked Minister Bakota to forward the procurement process under the condition that they would have 700 million as commission.

Mishra demands that the commission should be shared between them in such a way that 70 % or around 550 million goes to Minister Baskota and 30% or the remaining of the commission would go to Mishra and the other people facilitating at various stages.

Although the exact date of conversation in the audio is not disclosed yet, the ministry official who had attended the meeting speculates it of the time before the scheduled January 6 meeting of the PAC.

“We cannot exactly tell when the conversation took place, but after listening to it when I recall  Mishra’s presentation in PAC Meeting, I conjecture the conversation must have taken place before the meeting,” a well-informed official at the ministry says insisting anonymity.

Mishra invited in the January 6 PAC meeting had cited the danger of embezzlement provided the In Groupe, the French Company was selected.

“The French company is also merely a supplier. It’s not a manufacturer. It’s not a capable company as well, hence, it’s better to import directly from the manufacturer company,” Mishra had commented offering his expertise in the issue.

The January 6 meeting of the PAC had decided to collect details from the concerned agencies and study further. Accordingly, all related documents had already been sent to the parliamentary committee.

The French Company In Groupe had submitted the proposal of establishing the Security Press in 27 billion rupees.

After the discussion over the French company’s proposal started, 2 German companies submitted a joint proposal for the establishment of the Security Press.

Bundesdruckkerei, a company under the German government’s ownership and Veridos, a private company of Germany had submitted their proposal at the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology.

Lately, the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology had initiated a joint study on the proposals submitted by the German and French companies.

The ministry had formed a ‘study team’ to make the research more effective; the team consisted of the representative of the ministry and some ‘experts’.

In the meantime, Hari Ballav Ghimire, the information officer at the Ministry expressed ignorance about the name and number of companies who had tendered their application.

“I have not got the details about the name and number of the companies which have filed their proposal,” Information Official Ghimire told Khabarhub, “What I have heard is the discussion on the proposals is undergoing.”

The January 6 meeting of the PAC had decided to collect details from the concerned agencies and study further. Accordingly, all related documents had already been sent to the parliamentary committee.

“After the PAC asked for the details, we have submitted all the relevant documents to the committee,” the Official at the Ministry of the Communication and Information Technology told Khabarhub. However, the PAC meeting held on February 17 has asked the government to postpone the procurement process unless the final decision came from the PAC.

The PAC had a discussion with Deepak Subedi, the Secretary at the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology and Bikal Paudel, the Executive Director of Security Printing Center on February 17.

Will German Company bag the tender now?

But for the audio leakage from Mishra the KBA-NotaSys representative, the German companies were most likely to bag the tender soon.

According to the Ministry sources, a proposal including the suggestion of granting German companies permission to procure the Security Printing was in a ready position to be submitted in the Cabinet soon. The proposed document had suggested the government to accept the proposal under the G to G process.

“The ministry had made preparation to sign with the German company at the cost of 27 billion rupees,” the official at the ministry revealed under anonymity, “However, the minister’s audio is likely to impact it to some extent.” He added that though the latest scam could delay the process it would not impact the whole process.

What is Security Printing?

The government had initiated a process of establishing a Security Printing Press for the secure printing of the banknotes, passport, post-stamp and revenue sticker in 2016.

After research carried out under the coordination of the then Vice President of National Planning Commission Dr Yubraj Khatiwada (now the Minister for Finance), the government had decided to form of Security Printing Development Committee to function under the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology.

On October 24, 2016, the government had issued a decree relating to the establishment of the Security Printing Development Committee.

After the government’s decree the Committee had decided to establish a Security Printing Press in Panauti, Kavre.

The change of the government had halted the procedure for some time. However, after KP Oli became the Prime Minister for the second time, the government had decided to cancel the open competition and go for the G2G process of procurement.

After the government decision, the government issued a Letter of Interest internally. As per the LoI, IN Groupe of France had submitted the proposal for the printing. After IN Groupe’s proposal, Minister Baskota visited France in March 2019.

Insisting anonymity, the officials at the ministry say that Minister Baskota had decided to grant permission to the German company. According to the sources, Mishra had leaked the audio clip as a means of taking revenge against Baskota.

During his visit, an MoU was signed with the French company. However, the procurement process of the press was not taken ahead.

In the meantime, in November, two German companies submitted their joint proposal.

The Council of Ministers formed a ‘Study Committee’ to study the French and German companies’ proposals. The committee was supposed to recommend the best alternative and Minister Baskota had got the responsibility of handling it all.

Interestingly, in Baskota’s initiation KBA-NotaSys, the Swiss company’s proposal was submitted in the Ministry.

“Although a Swiss company’s proposal had come to the Ministry few months before, it was not registered,” the official at the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology said, “First it was decided to give to French Company, later the German company was added and now while the study was going on Swiss company is introduced again.”

According to him, the proposal was not registered due to the protest from the ministry personnel.

The disclosed audio between Minister Baskota and Swiss Company representative Mishra has also mentioned that the file was stuck due to the officials at the ministry.

Minister Baskota has asked Mishra to deal with the officials at the Ministry.

Baskota, using derogatory language against the officials at the ministry, has asked Mishra to deal with them. He has even mentioned that they would be behaving insultingly to him provided they get a chance so, he wants to avoid them.

Insisting anonymity, the officials at the ministry say that Minister Baskota had decided to grant permission to the German company. According to the sources, Mishra had leaked the audio clip as a means of taking revenge against Baskota.

According to the officials, the German company had agreed to offer 12% of 27 billion rupees which is approximately 3.24 billion.

“So far as we know, the temptation of getting more commission from the German company might have led to the cancellation of other proposals and leakage of the audio clip,” the officials said.

Just In

0