KATHMANDU, Nov 17: Forest and Soil Conservation Minister Mohammad Wakil Musalman is found to have been demanding Rs 800,000 to 1 million each from two dozen district forest officers (DFOs), enticing them with transfers to lucrative districts, it is confirmed by multiple sources.
According to knowledgeable sources at the Forest Ministry, Minister Musalman transferred 11 DFOs to various districts on Tuesday and has been preparing to transfer 13 more shortly despite serious objection from Forest Secretary Keshav Bhattarai and other senior officials.
"The minister himself, his aides and some of his relatives have been demanding Rs 800,000 to 1 million if a DFO wants to get transferred to districts notorious for timber smuggling," confirmed three ministry sources. One of the DFOs who was invited to the minister´s quarters Monday and asked to pay for his transfer also confirmed that the minister sought money from him.
"You have to pay money to support my party if you want to get transferred to a lucrative district," the DFO quoted Musalman as saying at his quarters.
The minister´s decision to transfer DFOs flouts the existing Civil Service Act, which does not allow him to transfer DFOs or other government staff before the end of a two-year term. The minister also flouted legal provisions by not seeking prior consent from the Ministry of General Administration (MoGA) before reaching such a decision.
Additionally, the minister has also not taken any prior consent from the MoGA in the case of the 13 DFOs whom he wants to transfer soon.
Sources divulged that the minister´s personal secretaries are also bargaining with the DFOs over money.
Meanwhile, disgruntled with Forest Secretary Bhattarai, Minister Musalman is all set to transfer him from the ministry. Secretary Bhattarai and other senior officials had requested him not to transfer any DFOs in contravention of the law or take other controversial decisions.
Minister transfers 11 DFOs, flouting Civil Service Act
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Minister Musalman, however, said the allegations against him were baseless. "I have not asked DFOs to pay me for their transfers," he said, adding, "I am ready to face action and even quit if anyone shows solid evidence of my involvement in bribe taking. I also challenge you (Republica) to show evidence regarding my involvement in demanding such bribes."
He, however, admitted that he is not fully satisfied with Secretary Bhattarai. Asked why he wants to transfer his secretary despite Prime Minister Dr Baburam Bhattarai´s public commitment not to transfer secretaries without assessing their performance, Minister Musalman added, "Transferring secretaries has long been a tradition in our country. A minister can transfer a secretary if he doesn´t receive proper support from the secretaries concerned."
Minister Musalman failed to specify in which matter Secretary Bhattarai failed to cooperate with him.
Asked why he transferred 11 DFOs in contravention of the Civil Service Act, Musalman said, "The decision to transfer them was taken as they were not given their responsibilities for so long."
He transferred DFOs posted in Jhapa, Shankhuwasabha, Surkhet, Rautahat, Kaski, Nuwakot and Dang on Tuesday.
According to sources, Musalman has prepared a list of lucrative districts to transfer DFOs to. As per the list, Dadeldhura, Kailali, Bara, Makwanpur, Sindhuli, Udayapur and Argakhachi are among the lucrative districts. "He has been seeking money from those wishing to get transferred to these districts," the sources added.
Published on 2011-11-17 03:00:43