DANG, July 29: Lamahi Municipality in Dang fixed the salaries of its elected officials through the municipal assembly right after the local elections last year, but kept the matter secret as the move ran counter to the policy of the federal government.
Government directives had given the provincial assembly the authority to determine the salaries of representatives at the local units.
Lamahi Municipality felt compelled to withdraw its decision on the salaries following public criticism as the matter had become public very soon. The municipality had been paying Rs 35,000 per month to the mayor, Rs 30,000 to the deputy mayor and Rs 25,000 for ward committee chairpersons as salaries from mid-July to mid-November before revoking the decision.
“We started taking our salaries right after the local elections in the expectation that the funds would be adjusted once the provincial assembly finalized the amounts. However, I was worried that the decision would cause controversy,” said a representatives of the municipality.
Other local units in the district also sought grounds for distributing salaries to the representatives but didn’t take any decision, fearing future complications.
“There were proposals for allocating certain salaries to the representatives, to be adjusted later against the relevant decision of the provincial assembly . But we couldn’t reach any conclusion,” said a ward committee member of Ghorahi Sub-Metropolitan City.
Local representatives intensified lobbying when the provincial assembly started deliberations on the perks and salaries for local representatives. Some local units requested the province authorities in writing to fix the salaries of ward committee members also.
“If the salary is fixed for all elected representatives from the ward committee to the president why should our salary not be fixed?” said ward committee member of Ghorahi Sub-Metropolitan City-15, Dilip DC .
Under such pressure, the provincial assembly fixed the salaries for ward committee members as well. But the local representatives have nothing to show for the year since their election, when it comes to development activities.
Provincial assembly members’ own preoccupation with their salary was also exposed when they tried to amend a provincial bill in order to give themselves a raise. But the Ministry of Finance rejected the salary hike, citing lack of budget.
“An amendment proposal was registered to hike the salaries of the chief minister and ministers but the Finance Ministry declined to allocate additional funds,” said provincial lawmaker Indrajeet Chaudhary.
According to him, the amendment proposed equalizing the salary of the chief minister with that of the prime minister.
Provincial lawmakers had grumbled that their salary was less than that of government secretaries though their place in the protocol hierarchy was higher.
Their perks, however, have been increased even though the all-out bid to up their salaries failed. The furniture expense has been increased to Rs 45,000 from the proposed 15,000 and the meeting allowance was also increased to Rs 1,000 from Rs 700 after the provincial lawmakers complained that it was lower than that of local representatives.
The lawmakers also amended the provision under which they were provided a non-gazetted second class officer as personal secretary.
Province 5 has estimated Rs 2 billion as its annual internal income. The province is unsure how it will balance its income and expenditures.
Provincial assembly member Arjun Kumar Shrestha claimed that the province took a wrong move by adding assistant ministers to its cabinet of ministers and state ministers.
The chief minister get Rs 60,970 a month as salary and the ministers get Rs 52,000. State ministers get 49,000 and assistance ministers Rs 46,000 .