The Nepal Army (NA) has not informed the defense minister about renting the modern building, built for Tri-Chandra Military Hospital hospital, for commercial purpose.
The NA is set to rent the building at the heart of Kathmandu city in Mahankal to Everest Traders of Chandra Bahadur Shrestha for 15 years at around Rs 500 million per year has invited controversy.
Defense Minister Bhimsen Das Pradhan has claimed ignorance of the decision to lease the building and expressed displeasure at the decision taken without even informing him, the line minister.
“I have no information about how and at what cost the hospital building was constructed,” he told Setopati on Thursday. “I am getting visitors asking me to help them get a space on the building after talks about the NA leasing the building for commercial purpose. But I have been telling them that I don’t know anything about that.”
He asserted that it is wrong to use the hospital building for other purpose. “I had said this hospital has the legacy of bravery of Nepalis and stated it should continue to remain so,” he reminisced. “I am surprised to hear that the military leadership has decided to lease the hospital building without even informing me.”
“It is wrong to lease the hospital building for commercial purpose. I have even informed the prime minister about the issue. The government will take necessary decision on this issue,” he assured.
He claimed he had said NA should focus on national security and development and not do business, should not indulge in the game of commission and remain under civilian control while addressing the meeting at the NA headquarters immediately after assuming office.
He opined that the NA should not do business even if it can operate hospitals, medical college and clubs. He clarified that the contract for Kathmandu-Nijgadh Fast Track has been awarded to the NA due to special conditions and the government will not allow the army to do profit-oriented business.
“The NA should also stop operating the party palace in Tundikhel. Public trust on the institution will increase if the NA were to do social works like cleaning Bagmati and Bishnumati rivers instead of doing business,” he opined.
Eight firms had submitted bid for renting the building and only Everest Traders and Himalaya Bakery had met the specifications set by NA, according to NA source. Everest Traders is set to rent the building at almost Rs 500 million a year. The Directorate of Public Relations and Information of NA, however, has claimed that the final agreement has yet to be signed.
NA source told Setopati that Everest has failed to deposit the rent of a year in advance as demanded by NA which also asked for bank guarantee for the rent of another year.
Minister Pradhan claimed that NA Chief Rajendra Chhetri has only informed him that a building of NA Welfare Fund is being rented at a monthly rent of over Rs 40 million. NA chief chairs the board of the welfare fund that has prime minister as the patron and defense minister as co-patron. Pradhan claimed there has been no meeting about the hospital building since he became defense minister.
The welfare fund currently has almost Rs 40 billion which is third behind the cash reserves of Employees Provident Fund and Citizen Investment Trust. The major income source of the welfare fund established 42 years ago is the amount slashed from the remuneration of NA personnel who serve in UN peace-keeping missions.
NA cuts up to 22 percent from the remuneration of its soldiers deployed for UN peace-keeping missions. Almost Rs 1.50 billion is annually deposited in the fund in this manner, according to NA sources.