Investigation committee to question ex-finance minister Sharma
The parliamentary commission of inquiry formed to investigate alleged manipulation of tax rates in the national budget has invited then finance minister Janardan Sharma for questioning after he failed to retrieve CCTV footage of the night of May 28 when the alleged incident took place.
Tuesday’s committee meeting decided to discuss with Sharma allegations that he invited unauthorized people to change tax rates on the eve of the budget announcement. He also decided to call the editors of the Annapurna Post and Kantipur daily newspapers which had published reports on the alleged incident.
“We plan to discuss the matter with Sharma on Wednesday or Thursday morning,” Bahadur Bishwakarma, a member of Nepal’s congressional inquiry committee, told The Post Man.
The committee will meet with the former finance secretaries on Wednesday morning and with the editors of the two vernacular dailies in the afternoon.
The Annapurna Post, in its June 13 edition, published an article claiming that Sharma had asked four senior finance ministry officials to follow the suggestions of two people – a retired senior undeclared officer and a chartered accountant – on the night of May 28 to make a few final one-time changes in taxation to benefit some business groups and hurt others. Kantipur, the Post’s sister newspaper, had published follow-up articles on the alleged incident.
“We urge publishers and Sharma to find out the truth,” Bishwakarma said. “So far, we have not found any concrete evidence to establish the allegations.”
On Sunday, the investigative committee questioned Finance Secretary Madhu Kumar Marasini and Revenue Secretary Krishna Hari Pushkar as well as Head of Budget Division Chakra Bahadur Budha, Head of Administrative Division Kedar Nath Sharma and Head of information technology department at the Ministry of Finance.
On Saturday, the committee interviewed Kamal Prasad Bhattarai, director general of the Customs Department; Ritesh Kumar Shakya, Director General of the Inland Revenue Department; and Bhupal Baral, Head of the Revenue Management Division of the Ministry of Finance. However, no official interviewed by the investigation committee confirmed that the two unauthorized persons entered the ministry on May 28.
Similarly, the investigative committee also decided to hand over the hard drive believed to contain the CCTV footage in question to the Central Police Forensic Science Laboratory to investigate the removal of the footage. Nepalese police technicians will check whether or not the CCTV recordings have been deleted and whether they can be recovered.
Surendra Aryal, secretary of the parliamentary finance committee who is also secretary of the investigative group, said the group decided to hand over the hard drive to the police following suggestions from experts from the Institute of Engineering of the Tribhuvan University and Nepal Police Cyber Cell. The investigation committee had consulted the technical team on Tuesday after failing to find the CCTV images of May 28.
Aryal said the investigating committee was unable to retrieve the CCTV recordings of the night in question despite repeated attempts. “Let’s see what the Nepal Police forensic investigation will yield,” he said.