Rs 21 million transferred to pay for PM Oli's visit to Vietnam and Cambodia alone
KATHMANDU, June 19: The Ministry of Finance (MoF) has transferred Rs 84.51 million from one budget heading to another to finance foreign junkets of top-ranking functionaries and officials in the past two months alone.
Data released by the MoF on Tuesday shows it transferred Rs 84.51 million in total in Baisakh (mid-April to mid-May) and Jestha (mid-May to mid-June) from 'miscellaneous' to 'delegation/foreign visit and reception' heading to foot the bills of high profile visits to various countries.
While the transfer of budget from one heading to another could be justified in urgent cases, experts say that shifting financial resources from one heading for foreign junkets could undermine financial discipline.
Out of the total transfer for financing foreign junkets, the MoF has provided Rs 21.29 million to pay for Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli's state visit to Vietnam and Cambodia from 9 to 15 May.
Similarly, the MoF has released Rs 30.96 million to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) for expenses incurred during the official visit of President Bidya Devi Bhandari to China in the last week of April. The finance ministry provided another Rs 16.21 million to cover costs of President Bhandari-led delegation to the US to attend the 63rd Session of the Commission of the Status of Women by the United Nations in March.
The finance ministry has also transferred Rs 5.38 million from 'miscellaneous' heading to provide daily allowance and pay travel agency for air tickets issued to delegates to participate in various international programs.
It has also released Rs 1.52 million to Nepal Law Commission (NLC) to foot the bills of NLC's three-member delegation to Zambia to participate in a conference of Commonwealth Association of Law Reform Agencies (CALRAs). The delegation was led by NLC Chairperson Madhav Paudel.
The ministry also made budget transfers to pay for visits of Chief Secretary-led delegation to Egypt and Israel ( Rs 1.36 million), Forest and Environment Minister-led team to Doha ( Rs 704,273, Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister to New York for 2019 UN Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial Meeting (Rs 955,245) and Industry Minister Matrika Yadav to Dubai and Bahrain (Rs 838,908).
Similarly, the MoF has transferred the budget to finance trips of Law Secretary to UN Headquarters in New York (Rs 1.39 million, Foreign Affairs' Minister visit to Argentina (Rs 1.87 million), Youth and Sports Minister visit to the US (Rs 648,191) and National Information Commission's commissioners' visit to South Africa (Rs 851,350).
While existing law permits budget transfer of only 10 percent for each ministry and agencies within the ministry, the transfer of millions of budget to finance junkets of officials raises questions on the government's commitment for financial austerity and fiscal discipline.