The Kathmandu Post
PRITHVI MAN SHRESTHA-KATHMANDU, Changunarayan Municipality has decided to takeover the management of Nepal Engineering College (NEC), whose ownership dispute resulted in the resignation of a commissioner of the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority.
Raj Narayan Pathak, a commissioner of the anti-graft body, on Friday tendered his resignation after being embroiled in a controversy following the release of videos that showed him admitting to receiving Rs7.8 million to settle a case related to the college.
The Changunarayan-based college, established as a not-for-profit social academic institute in 1994, was caught in a dispute after a group led by Lambodar Kumar Neupane attempted to convert it into a private limited company in May 2017. A meeting of the Municipal Assembly, held from February 8-12, decided to take over the management of the college and run it as community college.
The municipality said the decision was made on the basis of the fact that the college has been registered as a social institution. A parliamentary committee study had also concluded that it was a community college. The municipality’s consultations with political parties and stakeholders also arrived to a consensus that the college should be run as a community institution.
“The municipality will now run it by appointing a new board of directors,” Changunarayan Municipality Mayor Som Prasad Mishra told the Post. “We have prepared an operation modality and formed an 85-member high-level council to select board members.”
Mishra, however, made it clear that the municipality’s decision is subject to change as per the final verdict of the Supreme Court regarding the dispute. By issuing an interim order, the Supreme Court on January 28 this year had stayed Lalitpur High Court’s order on December 28, 2018 to run the college as a company.
Although the ownership dispute arose after Neupane registered Nepal Engineering College Private Limited under his own ownership on May 8, 2017, officials at the college said that Neupane had long tried to bring the college, which was running well, under private ownership. In fact, when the college was established in 1994, it was established with an investment of Rs3.5 million as a non-profit institution.
Seven founders—Ram Ratna Upadhyay, Labraj Bhattarai, Upendra Gautam, Deepak Prasad Bhattarai, Hari Prasad Pandey, Lambodar Neupane and Surya Bahadur KC—had invested Rs500,000 each as interest-free loans on the condition that the college would return the money after it became capable to repay. But as the college started to make good income, the money was used in increasing the assets of the college.
College sources said that about 75 percent of their investment has already been returned until recently, according to a senior college official. The college now has assets worth around Rs1.5 billion including 36 ropanies of land, five buildings, and other property.
The erstwhile Chang-unarayan Village Development Committee had also provided 174 ropanies of land for its use, with which it constructed some other buildings. The college currently has around 2,200 students and around 200 teachers and employees.
According to sources at the college, the big amount of property, collected in the name of the college, tempted a group of board members led by Neupane to bring the property under personal ownership.
According to the sources, Neupane, along with Surya Bahadur KC, Labraj Bhattarai, Upendra Gautam and Ram Ratna Upadhyay, had made several attempts to sell the college since Neupane was appointed board chairman of the college on November 18, 2013.
After Neupane registered a private limited company under the name—Nepal Engineering College Pvt Ltd—and sought to bring all moveable and immoveable properties of Chagunarayan-based Nepal Engineering College under the ownership of company, the dispute flared up.
The issue then reached the CIAA. Leaked videos showed that he had received money allegedly from the Neupane group—that had used different individuals—to settle the dispute. But when there was no headway, the group that bribed Pathak conducted a sting operation on the commissioner. The sting operators leaked the videos of Pathak admitting to have taken graft which ultimately cost him his job at the CIAA.