MoFA mulls selling mission property in London, Bonn

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KATHMANDU, FEB 04 -

Despite the absence of a parliament and the lack of proper domestic laws, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) is gearing up to sell two prime properties in London and Bonn, currently owned by the Nepali missions in the United Kingdom and Germany respectively.

The government has already constituted a panel headed by Joint Secretary at the MoFA Ambika Devi Luitel and comprising various other government representatives. The panel also includes three concerned ambassadors—Suresh Chalise of the UK, Suresh Pradhan of Germany and Ram Mani Pokhrel of Belgim—who have been summoned to the MoFA on February 13 and 14 to discuss the exact situation of the properties and the process to sell or repair these dilapidated structures. The meeting will deliberate on the amount the properties can be sold at and the funds required to repair the buildings in case the bid to sell them fails, according to MoFA spokesperson Arjun Bahadur Thapa.

However, several government officials, including a few at the MoFA, are against selling the properties in the absence of a parliament and domestic laws allowing the selling of such governmental property. “Currently, we only have procurement laws and none related to selling property. Given that, we doubt these properties can be sold as it concerns billions of rupees and no one wants to get their hands dirty,” said a senior government official.

There has long been a strong lobby to sell off the Nepali mission’s UK property, located in London’s prime Kensington Palace Gardens, given its poor condition and the massive amount of funds required for its repair. Panel members will soon visit the UK and Germany to inspect the properties, learn local practices of property management and report back to the government.

Recently, a property agency associated to the British Royal family submitted a report to the Nepali Embassy in London stating that it would cost around 2.2 million pounds sterling (Rs 300 million) to repair and renovate the embassy building at current market rates. “Although the building is in a sorry state, it is not that dilapidated. It just needs regular repair and maintenance,” said the report submitted by the agency.

Last May, the Public Accounts Committee had instructed the government to sell off the London building after carrying out maintenance work and evaluating the property along international standards. The five-story building, filled with ancient art and sculptures, could fetch 300 to 500 million pounds sterling if sold through a competitive bidding process, according to officials.

Although technically ‘Crown’ property, meaning that the building is legally owned by the British Royal Family, London’s embassy building lease was handed over to Nepal in 1938 in recognition of the dedication shown by Gurkhas in the British Army. According to a bilateral agreement, Nepal would pay 100 pounds annually as lease for the first 25 years, 1,000 pounds for the next 25-50 years and 1,500 pounds for the next 50-70 years. Nepal renewed the lease agreement for the first time in 1980, which is set to expire in 68 years.

In Germany, Nepal had purchased land and built a chancery building and a residence for its ambassador in Bonn. After the unification of Germany, Nepal relocated its mission to Berlin, leaving the Bonn building to fall apart. “Until last year, a local person was given the responsibility of looking after the building. There were several attempts to sell the building but no government official or Nepali ambassador has dared to go all the way through,” said an official at the MoFA. The Bonn building is also considered prime property and could potentially fetch millions of euros if sold at current market prices, said the official.

 

Posted on: 2013-02-04 04:00