LAHAN, July 27: The tendency of government agencies and local units leaving the development budget unused till the 11th month of the fiscal year and spending it all in the final month has been found in targeted programs including women empowerment programs.
The local authorities have been found to manipulate the paperwork and release the budget at the end of the fiscal year by taking hefty commissions. As project contractors are forced to pay a good portion of the budget to the authorities as bribe, most development works are of substandard quality and not sustainable.
During fiscal year 2016/017, Lahan Municipality of Siraha district spent Rs 2.74 million on women empowerment and development, Rs 2.73 million on programs targeted at children, and Rs 3.9 million on other targeted programs. The municipality said that the budget for these programs was spent through consumer committees.
The huge expenditures, however, produced no fruitful results. For instance, a program aimed at creating awareness against drug abuse in children of communities suffering from drug abuse yielded no visible results because the program did not include the targeted children at all. The municipality's record shows that the program was implemented for the affected children of Lahan-1 through a consumer committee chaired by Saj Bahadur Ale.
Similarly, a budget of Rs 124,672 was spent on a program aimed at creating awareness on violence against women and uterus problems through a consumer committee chaired by Nunu Chaudhary. The municipality approved the two-day program to be held in Lahan-20 and the program was organized last month. However, locals complained that the organizers concluded the program within a few hours.
The program was targeted at Dalits and other underprivileged communities. Yet, there were hardly any people from the targeted groups. Dalits of the community said they were totally unaware about it.
“We sat there just for a while. Then the leader told us to take the allowance and we got Rs 200 each and went home,” said Bhultain Ram of the community. “Only after reaching home did we realize that Rs 124,000 had been spent on the program. The organizer just talked for a while and concluded the program.”
“On the second day, the organizer made some women dance and that is how the program on awareness on violence against women concluded,” Ram further added. “After seeing the leaders dance on the stage, we felt that they are misusing the funds.”
The budget for targeted programs of Sukhipur Municipality has been distributed among media persons and politicians. Most of the media persons in the municipality have received their share of the money. Executive Officer Tek Prasad Bhattarai refused to share the details of all the expenditures.
The municipality provided Rs 228,000 to Nepal Small Farmers Agriculture Cooperative to organize a training program for vegetable farmers. The program is said to have been organized under the organization's Surya Nath Mandal. Yet, the targeted groups said they were unaware about it.
“Although the program is said to be targeted at the indigenous groups, it was organized without their participation and it wasn't sustainable at all,” said local politician Khusi Lal Mandal, who is also an indigenous leader.
Ramesh Kumar, executive officer of Sakhuwankarikatti Rural Municipality, said, “The budget was released only at the last moment. That is why we had difficulty organizing the targeted programs.” According to him, ward secretaries received the budget on the last day of the fiscal year.