Lawmakers, political leaders press govt to finance their petty projects

Published On: October 15, 2017 03:00 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

KATHMANDU, Oct 15: The fate of over 2300 small projects including drinking water and roads, prioritized by politicians and top bureaucrats in the past out of their personal clout and interest, now hangs in balance. 

But lawmakers and politicians are pressing the government to allocate budget for these petty projects despite their insignificance, even after the local levels denied to put them in their priority list.

No budget has been allocated for these projects by the government at the central level, while the lump-sum budget allocated for the local bodies is not sufficient for such petty projects, local level leaders have said.  

These small projects, to be implemented in the home districts of influential political and government leaders possibly in an effort to woo their voters in upcoming elections, are worth Rs 15 billion, according to the Ministry of Finance. There are hundreds of other projects that may have already been contracted out, making them the multi-year project and thereby costing the government treasury dearly. 

Regardless of the ministry's estimates, officials of the Department of Road have said that the budget need for such projects could be around Rs 30 billion, including massive non-budgetary spending, a growing concern in the recent years. 

The demand for non-budgetary funds, including for these projects, is in tune of Rs 200 billion since the beginning of this fiscal year (mid July) and it may grow significantly in the remaining months of the fiscal year, according to the Ministry of Finance. 

Commenting on the alarming trend of demanding allocations for non-budgetary programs, Finance Secretary Shant Raj Subedi recently said that it was against the principle of the budgetary system. He feared that such practice would lead to serious indiscipline in the country's financial system. 

The budget demand for such new projects was around Rs 100 billion last year. “We are not going to allocate any budget for these projects except for those already contracted out, because they are small-type projects and should be prioritized,” said Kewal Prasad Bhandari, chief of the budget division of the Ministry of Finance. 

An official at the Department of Roads who denied to be identified said that they were facing pressure from the lawmakers and politicians for the small projects mostly because of their vested interest. 

With the election of the local level, priority setting for development projects -- large projects by the National Planning Commission and small projects by the elected local levels -- was expected to be effective. But due to continued maneuvering from influential political leaders and lawmakers, concerned officials suspected things will not change much.

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