Lawmakers press govt to continue constituency dev funds

Published On: May 27, 2017 12:40 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

KATHMANDU, May 27: Parliamentarians have put pressure on the government to continue budgetary allocations for two parliamentary development programs in the upcoming budget.

Following a pre-budget discussion with Minister for Finance Krishna Bahadur Mahara and the officials of the finance ministry on Thursday, the parliamentary Finance Committee has asked the government to continue allocations for Parliament Development Fund and Constituency Infrastructure Development Fund. 

Budget allocated in these two funds are spent on projects recommended by parliamentarians. 

In the discussion, Mahara said that they were preparing to discontinue these two funds and allocating budget to local units directly.

The committee also directed the government to allocate needful budgets to the funds for completing ongoing programs and projects being implemented under the Constituency Infrastructure Development Fund. 

According to the officials involved in preparing annual income and expenditure for the coming fiscal year, the government is preparing to withdraw allocation in those two funds as newly elected local bodies can select projects and programs on their own now onwards.

In the current fiscal year, each lawmaker has received Rs 5 million to spend in projects and programs of their choice, while a fund of Rs 30 million has been allocated to all 240 constituencies which is managed by a team of lawmakers from that constituency. Elected lawmaker in their respective constituencies leads the team.

Projects selected by lawmakers, however, have become ineffective as they have been distributing budget on a piecemeal basis i.e. allocation of up to Rs 50,000 for each projects. Office of the Auditor General (OAG) has also pointed out several shortcomings on spending made under these two funds. According to OAG, most of the projects are selected to appease cadres. There have also been cases of lawmakers funding projects run by non-government organizations.

Prakash Jwala, the chairperson of Finance Committee, said that the two funds should be continued as they are crucial in connecting constituencies through developmental activities. “There may be some shortcomings. But it should not be generalized,” he said, adding: “Office of the District Coordination Committee, a new entity, will manage the funds effectively,” added Jwala. 

Former finance minister Surendra Pandey said lawmakers cannot directly meet expectations of voters and general public in their respective constituencies if the funds are discontinued. “The funds should be continued until the deep-rooted notion of seeking development programs from candidates and elected lawmakers exists,” said Pandey. 

Chairman of Development Committee of parliament, Rabindra Adhikari, recently told Republica that Parliamentarian Development Fund of Rs 5 million for each lawmaker should be continued. “It may be logical to discontinue budget allocation for constituencies,” added Adhikari.

The government is scheduled to unveil budget for Fiscal Year 2017/18 on Monday. 
Allocate needful resources to local units: House panel
Parliament's Finance Committee has suggested to the government to allocate needful budget to local units. 

In a pre-budget discussion with government officials, the committee said local units should be given adequate budget to run their offices and provide service to general public.

“The government should also give a clear direction on spending to local units as well as put in place expenditure management system,” the decision taken by the committee reads. 

The committee has also asked the government allocate funds to Kathmandu Tarai Expressway, Budhigandaki Hydropower Project, Hulaki Rajmarga and Mid-Hills Highway projects, among others. 

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