EC seeks info from ministries on funds for conflict victims, ex-rebels

Published On: April 22, 2017 12:50 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

KATHMANDU, April 22: The Election Commission (EC) has sought details from two ministries--Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction-- over the releasing of billions of rupees to conflict victims and former Maoist combatants. The the ministries have been accused of making preparations to release an estimated Rs 16 billion for conflict victims and ex-Maoist combatants in a move to influence the upcoming local elections. 

The directive from the election body was issued following formal complaints from the main opposition CPN-UML that the government was distributing Rs 500,000 to each conflict victim and former Maoist combatant. A delegation led by UML Deputy Parliamentary Party Leader Subas Nembang on Thursday  registered a formal complaint at the EC stating that an estimated Rs 16 billion was in the process of being released for the Maoist combatants. 

Apart from this, the government is also accused of releasing funds from the Ministry of Sports and other agencies. "As per our information, the Ministry of Sports has released Rs 50.02 million  for Rolpa district, sidelining previously endorsed sports programs," said UML leader Agni Kharel. Kharel accompanied the Nembamg-led delegation. 

Kharel also claimed that the government has released billions  for other development projects, with the intention  of influencing the upcoming elections. 

Maoist leader Krishna Bahadur Mahara, who heads the Finance Ministry, was earlier accused of distributing a total of Rs 5.05 billion for various projects in order to woo voters ahead of the local elections. 

A senior official at the Ministry of Finance said he was unaware of any ongoing process for  releasing funds although  such a proposal could be tabled directly on behalf of a minister. 

Worried over the concerns of the main opposition party,  the election body has asked the ministries to furnish  details. "We are concerned over the issue. That's why they are being asked to furnish details of the funds release process," said Election Commissioner Sudhir Kumar Shah, who oversees the election code of conduct. 

Commissioner Shah said the EC will take action against the ministers and other officials if they are found to have released funds after the polls were announced. "Releasing or transferring funds after the enforcement of the election code of conduct is a violation of the code," said Shah. "However, we cannot do anything if the fund release process was started before we enforced the election code,"  he added.

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