Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC), a state-owned enterprise, is always in news for obvious reasons. It is the sole body to import and distribute POL products in the country. This makes it a fit entity where financial irregularities can take place with utmost ease. Taking this into consideration, an Act to manage it is imperative, but that is along way at the moment. Despite that, as a filip, a parliamentary probe committee formed by the government is moving ahead, albeit seriously, to come up with its report pin pointing the aberrations, and the reforms needed to make NOC more responsible, accountable and efficient. The report to be submitted by the probe team is expected to be quite comprehensive to upright NOC, upon implementation.
The reform process ought to be hastened because it is the Nepalese people who suffer the majority of whom are impoverished, as a result of the inflated price of petroleum products. The NOC has been taking huge loans and what is unfair is that the consumers ultimately end up paying the interests which is an added burden on them. Moreover, the NOC has been putting expenses under different headings and manipulating the figures, on a seemingly ad hoc basis, to cite huge loss to justify unwarranted oil price hikes. This is but showing dissrespect for the consumers through deception. It is agreed the price of oil has reached record highs in the international market, another refrain the NOC use while hiking the price of petroleum products. But, this is not sufficient reason alone for doing so. Furthermore, the profit and loss figures the NOC provides to the government is seen to have many anomalies. The NOC asks for loans from the government insisting that unless they receive loans or grants they would not be able to operate. Now, it is high time that the monopoly that the NOC has in importing oil was done away with. The private sector too should be allowed to do so that would make the market ‘competitive’ and, hopefully, the price of oil would be reasonable. However, there is also the apparent danger of a resulting cartelling. This is to be avoided at all cost. Experiences show that cartelling is common in many private enterprises, which strict government monitoring can check.
A layperson sees that the POL product prices are being raised by NOC almost every month. If the NOC has its ways, it would raise it further in the near future saying that it is a compulsion as it is having to bear a huge loss. In this backdrop that the NOC staffers get 60 liters of kerosene free of cost every month as well as 200 leaders of the political parties is difficult to fathom. How can the NOC explain this when the consumers are having to pay a hefty amount for oil. Clearly, this provision that benefits 700 staffers of NOC should be scrapped for the expenses are high and the staffers and political party leaders should not enjoy special privileges at the cost of the people. The NOC says it is bearing millions in loss at the present prices, but it has this ridiculous provision for providing free kerosene to its staffs. This is gross abuse of the taxpayers money, and accountability has no meaning for NOC.
Kathmandu with a population of some 700,000 people, has but only three fire engines to meet fire hazards. The fire brigade has remained in the same pathetic condition that it was a quarter of a century ago. While the population has increased drastically, the number of houses and apartments have also kept pace. This obviously means that blazes can be very devastating if timely and appropriate measures are not taken to extinguish it. With
houses crammed together, the dangers of the fire spreading to numerous adjoining buildings are
immense. However, the fire-fighting capability
has remained dismal, with the successive administrations doing nothing to enhance the fire-fighting power with adequately trained firefighters, proper and sufficient fire engines, and the other prerequisites for the sake of preparedness.
The inadequacies of the fire brigade is highlighted during emergencies especially during the the summer months. The long time taken for the fire fighters to contain a blaze is perhaps glaring also because of the lack of water reservoirs for the fire engines to draw upon during fire breaks, to prevent loss of life and property as far as possible.