December 7: The Public Accounts Committee under the House of Representatives has instructed the government to immediately stop the controversial purchase and sale of shares of Ncell, a private sector telecommunication company in Nepal.
The committee meeting held at Singh Durbar on Wednesday decided to direct the government to immediately stop the ongoing Ncell share purchase and sale process. The committee is preparing to discuss this issue by inviting Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal to the next meeting of the committee.
"It has been decided to call the prime minister to discuss the issues of corruption and irregularities involving the purchase and sale of Ncell share and to instruct the government to immediately stop the process," said PAC Chairman Rishikesh Pokharel.
According to him, the committee has also instructed the government to conduct an independent investigation within 30 days regarding the purchase and sale of Ncell shares. The committee has instructed the government to make public its opinion regarding the Ncell controversy within 48 hours.
The committee meeting concluded that Axiata is trying to influence the capital gains tax, ownership transfer tax, etc, to be paid to the Government of Nepal by buying and selling shares outside Nepal at extremely low valuations in an opaque manner.
The committee said that the transaction can be termed dubious and unrealistic, there is lack of transparency, and the company is trying to convey a misleading message that there is no investment environment in Nepal.
Meanwhile, the Company Registrar's Office has sent a reply to the Public Accounts Committee saying that it has not received any information about the purchase and sale of Ncell’s shares by Axiata.
Most of the MPs who expressed their opinion in the meeting alleged that high-level leaders were also involved in the Ncell purchase and sale case. They also said that the government should have a clear opinion about Ncell's statement that there is no investment environment in Nepal.
Axiata bought the shares of the company in 2016 from Sweden-based TeliaSonera for Rs 143 million. Now, the controversy has surfaced after Axiata announced the sale of its shares in Ncell for less than seven billion rupees to a UK-based company.
Writing a letter to the Nepal Telecommunications Authority, Ncell said that it is in the process of collecting the documents regarding the purchase and sale of the shares
In the letter, Ncell also stated that it believes in the rule of law. It further said that the company will submit an application for the approval of the purchase and sale of the shares as per the regulations of the authority.
The NTA had earlier written to Ncell Axiata on Friday and said that the purchase and sale of shares must be done according to Rule 15 (8) of Telecommunications Regulations, 2054, under which there is a provision to obtain the prior approval from the authority for selling or buying shares of more than five percent of the paid-up capital. However, it seems that Ncell has already sold its shares in an offshore deal without taking such permission.