Sat, 13 Aug 2022

Kathmandu [Nepal], July 6 (ANI): After he announced his resignation as the Finance Minister of Nepal, Janardan Sharma promised to support the probe to investigate alleged tax tweak charges in the recent budget.

Addressing a meeting of the House of Representatives on Wednesday, he announced his resignation denying allegations and promising to support the probe.

"Today, the government and honourable house speaker's efforts which has been able to form the committee to investigate further, I welcome the step and thank you for the steps. For this investigation, further opening the ways forward, I hereby announce resignation from my post," Sharma said.

The House of Representatives on Wednesday formed an 11-member inquiry committee to probe Sharma. Speaker Agni Prasad Sapkota proposed the names of 11 members of the parliamentary inquiry committee received from the political parties.

The probe committee includes four lawmakers including Khagaraj Adhikari, Pradip Gyawali, Bhanubhakta Dhakal and Bimala BK, as members of the main opposition CPN-UML. Likewise, the committee will have Pushpa Bhusal and Sitaram Mahato from the Nepali Congress, Dev Prasad Gurung and Shakti Bahadur Basnet from the Maoist Center.

Sarala Kumari Yadav of Unified Socialist, Surendra Yadav of Janata Samajbadi Party (JSP), and Laxman Lal Karna of Loktantrik Samajbadi Party are also included in the committee.

Pressure mounted over Janardan Sharma since June 13 after a report in the local newspaper (Annapurna Daily) where two outsiders were brought to change some taxes just before the presentation of the budget in parliament on May 29.

The vernacular daily reported that Sharma had instructed four senior Finance Ministry officials to follow the suggestions of two individuals one named Raghunath Ghimire, a retired senior non-gazetted officer and an unnamed chartered accountant--on the night of May 28.

The report stated that Sharma ordered to make some last moment changes in taxation which are claimed to be made with a view to benefiting some business groups and harming others.

Ghimire who joined the government service as a secretary of a village development committee in Nuwakot in May 1996 was transferred to a tax office in Kathmandu just after eight months of serving as secretary.

After serving in several revenue-related offices, he resigned on February 13, 2019, as a senior non-gazetted officer at the Department of Customs.

Amid controversy, the Finance Ministry in a press statement the same day denied the involvement of unauthorized persons in the budget-making process.

"On May 28, preparations for an appropriations bill, finance bill, bill on raising national debt, and bill on debt and securities, were made with the participation of the finance secretary, revenue secretary, departmental chiefs and director-general of the Department of Customs, and the Inland Revenue Department, under the leadership of the finance minister. There was no involvement of any other person except the authorized persons in this process," the statement read.

Responding to the allegations that surfaced then Finance Minister Sharma on 14 June's parliamentary meeting denied the involvement of unofficial personnel during budget preparation.

"An issue has been raised claiming anomalies while drafting the budget and tweaking of revenue rates- an outsider was called in at midnight. These are deceptive and fictional stories, I degrade and reject such claims," Finance Minister Sharma said while answering the queries of lawmakers during deliberation on an appropriation bill in the House of Representatives (HoR) on 14 June.

Responding to the claims of then Finance Minister, the opposition further has sought the House Speaker's order to retrieve and publicize CCTV footage of the Finance Ministry of May 29 midnight, a day before the budget was made public, and a parliamentary inquiry into the Finance Minister.

With the exercise of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the CCTV video from the ministry was sought at the end week of June over which the Finance Ministry had replied that it has been erased from the system as it lacks enough space to hold on the footages. (ANI)

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