Tuesday, June 20, 2006

CIAA takes over excise waiver case

Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) has commenced investigation into Inland Revenue Department's (IRD's) decision to pledge excise waiver to four liquor companies against Financial Regulations ekantipr reports.

The commission, informing Ministry of Finance (MoF) of its investigation, on Sunday took over the case, which involved financial irregularity of over Rs 90 million.

"CIAA has already acquired duplicate copies of the decision and other documents related to the case," said a highly placed source. He informed the Post that the MoF has, however, sought additional time to hand over original set of documents, as it is internally investigating the case through a committee.

"We forwarded the copies of the documents on Sunday. If CIAA deems necessary, we can hand over original copies as well. But since internal team of the ministry is studying the case, we have requested the commission for a few days to hand over all the original papers," said the official. The MoF last week constituted a three-member committee under the coordination of Surendra Mani Tripathy to probe the case. The committee is required to submit its report by Sunday.

The case of illegal excise waiver had come to the anti-corruption watchdog's notice after the Post ran a story on it last week. Director General of IRD Rana Bahadur Shrestha and the then acting Secretary of MoF Pramod Karki had decided to pledge special concessions to four liquor companies - Nepal Liquor, Sumi, Highland and McDowells Nepal - on the last day of the king's direct rule.

The decision was against governing laws, as according to Financial Regulations only the Cabinet has authority to decide on cases of duty waiver. Even the Finance Minister cannot take and implement waiver decisions, unless it is incorporated in the Financial Regulation.

Meanwhile, the MoF's three-member probe committee has already started investigation into the case. According to a source, the team is currently studying the proposal forwarded by the IRD and decision of the Ministry on it.

He further said that the team members and senior ministry officials also are raising questions over the relevance of keeping intact the decision taken at a level beyond its authority. They have strongly voiced that the decision be made 'null and void'.

"The committee is studying whether acting Secretary can decide on excise waiver when that is not mentioned in the Financial Ordinance," said the source.

The committee is also assessing if IRD has discretionary authority to step on the Supreme Court's verdict, issued in favor of a single company - Sharad Distillery, to pledge concessions to just the four other companies, excluding 30 others from the facility.

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