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Nepal quake reconstruction chief faces graft investigation

[KATHMANDU] The head of Nepal's earthquake reconstruction authority is being investigated following complaints of corruption and other irregularities, an anti-graft official said Monday.

Sushil Gyewali was in December appointed chief of the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA), charged with spending US$4.1 billion in funds raised after the quake which killed nearly 9,000 people and destroyed more than half a million homes last April.

Spokesman Krishna Hari Pushkar said the Commission for the Investigation of the Abuse of Authority had received complaints about Gyewali's handling of decisions in his previous job as executive director of the Town Development Fund, as well as in his current role.

"Several complaints have been filed against him that allege he is colluding with NGOs and INGOs (international non-governmental organisations) in a way that is against our system and procedure," said Pushkar.

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He said there were also concerns at the slow pace of reconstruction and relief efforts.

Gyewali, who is accompanying Nepal's prime minister on an official visit to China, was not immediately available for comment. His spokesman also declined to comment.

The government vowed last June to set up the NRA to oversee rebuilding and ensure that all aid went to victims, as part of its bid to attract funding from sceptical foreign donors.

But political bickering over leadership of the body held up its formation until December.

With tens of thousands of the April 25 quake victims still living in tents, the government has been strongly criticised for delays in disbursing aid pledged by donors.

Corruption is rife throughout Nepal, ranked 126th out of 175 countries in watchdog Transparency International's global corruption perception index.

AFP

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