Ministries still hesitant to delegate authority to local units

Published On: May 31, 2017 09:49 AM NPT By: Rudra Pangeni  | @rudrapang

KATHMANDU, May 30: The government has allocated 17 percent of the total budget, or Rs 225 billion, to 744 local units for the coming Fiscal Year 2017/18.

Though it was widely expected to delegate the authority of selecting development programs and projects to the local units from the coming fiscal year 2017/18, it didn’t happen -- at least in budget allocation. The government has not decreased budget allocation to ministries. Many ministries have kept several ongoing projects under their jurisdiction instead of handing them over to local bodies. Government sources say many lawmakers have piled pressure to keep such projects at the center.

Unveiling the budget for the Fiscal Year 2017/18 on Monday, Minister for Finance Krishna Bahadur Mahara said there won’t be allocation for small projects, including roads, in the budget.

However, the budget for Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport has been increased from Rs 27 billion in the current fiscal year to Rs 96 billion in the coming fiscal year. This indicates that there still are several programs and projects at the central level.

Though details of the programs and projects of central ministries have not been made public yet, officials involved in making budgetary programs say that ministries were reluctant to send budget to local units. 

Of the 31 ministries, budget allocation for 21 ministries will increase in the coming fiscal year. Budget size of Ministry of Urban Development, Ministry of Irrigation, Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation has increased.

“The government could have distributed at least 22-23 percent of total budget to the local units,” an official of the Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development said. “This way, total allocations for local units could have reached Rs 350 billion.”

Former finance minister Bharat Mohan Adhikari said that budget allocated for local units will be insufficient as local units have to set up their offices even at the ward level.

MoFALD should have allocated at least another Rs 10 billion from the Parliament Development Fund and Constituency Development Fund to the local units, officials say.

Some annual budget and programs of Ministry of Health, Ministry Education and MoFALD, however, have been transferred to local units as their annual budget has come down by Rs 41, Rs 23 and Rs 4.8 billion, respectively.

Overall, the budget of ministries has increased by Rs 89 billion to Rs 736 billion.

Budget allocation for Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Minister (OPMCM) has increased by Rs 83 billion. The ministry has received Rs 65 billion in the current fiscal year.

During pre-budget discussions, the finance ministry had all the ministries to segregate projects to be implemented by the center and local units. “But they submitted very few projects. Some did not bring any, making it difficult for us to decide,” a finance ministry official said. “This is why the finance minister announced in the budget speech that all the programs implemented by respective ministries at the local level should be transferred to respective local units by mid August,” the official added.

According to the budget speech, programs of all ministries of up to Rs 5 million in rural municipalities, Rs 10 million in municipalities and Rs 20 million for sub-metropolis and metropolis have to be transferred to local units.

Speaking at a press meet on Tuesday, Minister Mahara said that budget allocation for local units has received mixed response. “Some say the allocation is too much, others say it is too little probably. My conclusion that the allocation that we have made is justifiable,” he added.

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