KATHMANDU, May 20: Failure on the part of concerned government agencies to monitor the activities of over 350,000 users’ groups has given rise to the misuse of national budget amounting to over billions of rupees each year.
The Office of the Auditor General (OAG) and the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) have started raising serious concerns following the gross misuse of billions of rupees allocated in the name of mushrooming number of users’ group to carry out various community projects and other development activities.
These two powerful anti-graft bodies of the government have concluded that over Rs 100 billion is grossly misused and pocketed by local and district level political party leaders and village elites each year in the name of users’ group. A large number of complaints over misuse of fund are currently pending at the CIAA.
According to government statistics, there are over 350,000 users’ group active across the country. Of them, over 100,000 users’ groups that are permanent in nature have been spending government budget in the name of carrying out development works.
CIAA officials say around 20 to 30 percent of complaints relating to the users’ group are related to corruption and irregularities while using the funds given to such groups. Procedures on the User’s Group Formation, Mobilization and Management 2074 BS has a provision to carry out development projects worth up to Rs 10 million with the participation of the locals.
But as such works are never monitored or regulated by any government mechanism, huge amount of budget is being misused, according to an assessment made by the OAG and the CIAA.
“We have received huge number of complaints on the misuse of government budget in the name of carrying out development works as well as community programs through users’ groups,” said CIAA Spokesperson Pradip Kumar Koirala.
“It is found that sub-standard works are being done in collusion with local representatives simply to misuse the budget.”
According to the OAG’s annual report, there are around 350,000 users’ groups across the country to work on issues related to irrigation, drinking water, infrastructures and forest conservation. The works carried out by these users’ groups are not monitored by any of the three tiers—federal, provincial and local-- of government.
OAG Spokesperson Bishnu Prasad Rijal said around Rs 100 billion is allocated each fiscal year to carry out various local level development works and community projects each year. “It seems there is a gross misuse of budget through these users’ groups as there is no monitoring and transparency in their spending,” said Rijal.
Rijal said that they have come to notice that such groups are created in most cases just to receive budget from the government and misuse them in their personal interest.
Of the total 350,000 users’ groups, some 225,900 users’ groups are active in various 753 local units. CIAA Spokesperson Koirala said local level representatives are also involved in the use of the budget received in the name of such groups.
“We have found that many of such groups formed at the local level are formed just to misuse the government budget. From the nomination of members to the launch of any program as well as the release of budget under these users’ groups is conducted in a carefully-designed setting of the local level representatives,” he said.
According to the OAG report, there are over 41,000 users’ groups working in the field of drinking water. Similarly, there are 30,000 such groups active in the field of irrigation, 30,000 in forest and 200 others in the field of Chure and buffer zone conservation. The number of such users’ group working in miscellaneous area stands at 20,000.
“It is found that various government bodies have carried out their works through over 100,000 users’ group of permanent nature and the remaining others of one-time nature,” reads the OAG report. “There is also no uniformity in the contracts and in their terms and conditions. Although the OAG has directed government to prepare an integrated record of users’ groups and monitor them, this has not been followed yet.”
The OAG has expressed concern that growing tendency to involve users’ groups to carry out development works not only has increased non-transparent expenditure of the government budget, but also given rise to sub-standard works.