Kathmandu: Yet again, Finance Minister Janardan Sharma is in the limelight, but for all the wrong reasons.
After Sharma, a former Maoist combatant, was appointed the Finance Minister, he continuously courted controversy.
Now, a fresh case has come to light. Sharma has been accused of involving an outsider to change taxes provisions in the budget speech just before it was presented before the Parliament.
But again, Sharma has refuted the news, and issuing a press statement, the Finance Minister has said that the news is “misleading and far from facts and logic.”
There have been calls for the resignation of Finance Minister Janardan Sharma after it was revealed that he had allowed a former government official—of a non-gazetted first-class level—to alter provisions in certain areas with the aim to ensure benefits to certain private sector businesses and business elites on the midnight of May 28, few hours before the budget was presented by the minister in parliament on May 29.
Janardan Sharma stands accused of allowing a person—unauthorized by all means—to alter tax provisions on certain items such as electric vehicles from the budget draft the Ministry of Finance officials had finalized, according to the Annapurna Post.
The Ministry of Finance, however, has denied the claim. Issuing a statement on Monday, the Ministry said that on the day of May 28, no person other than the Finance Minister, secretaries and the chiefs of the respective divisions under the ministry were involved. “We inform all that no person other than designated officials were involved in the process,” said the statement.
According to an economist, the Finance Minister has shown no concern to solve the current economic crisis, rather he is involved in such scandals. “Sharma is always involved in scandals, but the government has always backed him. How can he stick to the post after such news is out?”
Since the Finance Minister has the track record of courting one after other controversies, many believe that there is a truth in the allegations.
Many say bringing in an unauthorized third party to work on confidential and sensitive budget documents to facilitate the earnings of the businesses is not only immoral but also amounts to financial crime.
The current allegation is probably a third in the series of misconduct that the Finance Minister from the Maoist Center has committed since he took office. He is found to have committed the misconducts to undermine the financial system for the sake of enriching the business cliques of his favor.
According to UML vice chair and lawmaker Surendra Pandey, the Finance Minister should resign from the post on a moral ground. “After facing a serious charge, the Finance minister is expected to clarify about it in the House. Even lawmakers of ruling parties have questioned his role in the alteration of tax rates and even after all these, he still expects to hold the post,” he questioned in a House Session on Tuesday.
“When the provisions require even the ministers and secretaries to put their communication devices in lockers during the discussions on tax rates in course of preparing the budget before it is presented in parliament, the Finance Minister has been accused of violating the norms by tweaking the tax rate in collusion with the unauthorized persons he brought with him,” he said.
In April, he was found to have pressured the Nepal Rastra Bank governor to release suspicious Rs 400 million belonging to one Prithvi Shah. When Maha Prasad Adhikari, the governor, refused to do so, he was immediately suspended. It is thanks to the Supreme Court that Adhikari was reinstated.
According to the reports, both Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and Maoist Center chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal have decided to remove Sharma from the job following the fresh controversies.
The government has not taken any action against him since the scandal became public on Monday. Moral questions have been raised also about Prime Minister Deuba for allowing the minister of questionable conduct to remain in power despite a series of controversies.
Meanwhile, the main opposition CPN-UML has demanded an investigation into the alleged misconduct of the Finance Minister by forming a probe committee.