Budget being transferred to election constituencies of home, irrigation ministers: Officials
KATHMANDU, Jan 24: Ministry of Irrigation is preparing to transfer the budget allocated for Bheri Babai Diversion Multi Purpose Project to fund petty projects in election constituencies of home and irrigation ministers in Dhanusha and Dang, respectively, officials privy to the issue say.
While Dhanusha-3 is the election constituency of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs Bimalendra Nidhi, Minister for Irrigation Deepak Giri was elected from Dang-5. Both are the leader of Nepali Congress.
Irrigation ministry officials say that the file to transfer Rs 393 million out of Rs 800 million allocated for the national pride project in the current fiscal year has already reached the Irrigation Secretary for approval before forwarding it to the Ministry of Finance for final approval.
The irrigation ministry has proposed to allot Rs 193 million of the Rs 393 million to fund medium-scale irrigation projects in the two districts, while the remaining Rs 200 million will be used for repair and maintenance works of different irrigation projects.
Budget transfer from national pride projects to petty projects is also against budgeting principle, officials of the finance ministry say.
Funds allocated for these petty projects can easily be misused as there is no mechanism to seriously monitor expenses made in such petty projects.
Officials, who were forced to prepare file for the transfer, have expressed surprise over the move as such transfers are allowed after mid-March only.
Work of Bheri Babai Diversion Multi Purpose Project is going on smoothly as the contractor -- China Overseas Engineering Group Co Ltd (COVEC) -- is building access road and camp sites. Similarly, it is digging a 150-meter tunnel to fit install tunnel boring machine (TBM). TBM is likely to arrive in the project site within this fiscal year. Project officials fear transfer of budget might affect the project.
The project will transfer 40 m3/s of water from Bheri River to Babai River under a head of about 150 meter to provide round the year irrigation to 51,000 hectares of cultivable land in Bardiya and Banke districts.
At least two sources privy to the issue claimed that one of the reasons behind haste budget transfer is ‘corrupt intent’ of some officials. Ministers as well as senior officials of the Department of Irrigation are unhappy with the contractor as it breached the customary practice of providing commission, which is also known as ‘PC’ or percent, to them. Such PC varies from 1 to 5 percent of the billed amount, a source said.
The contractor had received 15 percent of the total contract amount of US$ 107 million for tunnel works in the last fiscal year as mobilization fund. Sources claim that the Chinese government-owned company has very transparent way of doing business.
The contractor is set to get first payment in the current fiscal year.
However, Sagar Kumar Rai, spokesperson of the irrigation ministry, said that the budget transfer proposal has been prepared after holding needful discussions with the officials of the ministry, department and the project management team. “There is no harm transferring the budget which has remained unspent in the scheduled timeframe. But we have not allotted funds to any specific project,” Rai added.
However, Madhu Marasini, joint secretary of Ministry of Finance, said that such transfers can be made only after mid-March.
A source at the finance ministry said that ministers are piling undue pressure to complete budget transfer at the earliest.
The project will also generate 48MW of hydropower.
The department is yet to invite tender for the contract of head works and power house.