Meeting halls and viewing towers built with billions of rupees find no use

Published On: January 21, 2023 03:13 PM NPT By: Bhuwan Sharma

KATHMANDU, Jan 21: Assembly halls and view towers built in different parts of the country at the expense of millions of rupees have been left in abeyance due to the failure of the government to develop procedures in time. Although a large amount of state funds have been spent on the construction of assembly halls and view towers, they have not been put to use due to the lack of operational and management procedures.

An example of this is the international conference center in Butwal, built at a cost of 1.11 billion rupees. The then prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba inaugurated the assembly hall last August. The meeting hall has been used only once in six months since its inauguration. Due to the lack of procedures, the meeting hall could not be rented while management expenses continue.

According to Dharmendra Panthi, head of Butwal International Convention Center Project, the management of the assembly hall costs at least 1.2 million rupees per month. However, by using the auditorium, Rs 96,000 rupees have been raised so far. “We do not even have the money to pay the electricity tariff. The Nepal Electricity Authority has prepared to cut the line," Panthi said. "This situation has come about because the assembly hall operation procedures have not been formulated."

Similarly, the then Urban Development Minister Metmani Chaudhary inaugurated a 700-seat meeting hall at Ghorahi in Dang last July.  Rs 200,000 per month is being spent on the management of the hall but the hall's management expenses are more than its income.

The 700-seat Mahendra Narayan Nidhi Mithila Cultural Center building built in Janakpur is being used by the Riot Police. At present, 100 riot police personnel live there. Pradeep Khanal, head of the Federal Project Implementation Unit, Dhanusha, said that preparations are being made to make the building of Mahendra Narayan Nidhi Mithila Center operational by building a barracks for the riot police in the center's compound.

Meanwhile, according to the Ministry of Urban Development, problems have arisen in the operation and management of assembly halls and view towers built in different parts of the country due to non-formulation of procedures related to their operation. Urban development ministry sources said that around 50 small and large meeting halls have been built across the country with the help of the federal government. Out of 30 meeting halls with a capacity of more than 500 seats, 22 have been completed and eight are under construction.

The ministry has drafted a procedure for the operation of assembly halls and specific structures. Secretary of the ministry, Suresh Acharya said that the procedure has been sent to the Ministry of Finance for approval. A view tower is called a 'special structure' in the procedure.

According to sources, in the draft procedure prepared by the ministry, it is proposed to form a development committee for the operation and management of assembly halls with a capacity of more than 500 seats and to transfer them to the local level for the operation and management of assembly halls with a capacity of less than 500 seats. An employee of the ministry said, "When a development committee is formed for the operation of the assembly hall, there is a possibility of it becoming a center for staff recruitment and political appointments. Then as soon as the development committee is formed, the government appoints officials. At least 20-25 employees have to be recruited there. Therefore, it is appropriate to entrust the operation and management directly to the local government.”

Assembly halls have been built and are being built in many places from the budget allocated by the government for infrastructure development. Last year, the Ministry of Urban Development decided not to plan for this after complaints were received that assembly halls were being built more than necessary. However, that decision did not last even a year. While a meeting hall with a capacity of 700 seats was ready in Ghorahi of Dang, the then Urban Development Minister Chaudhary laid the foundation stone of the meeting hall in Lamhi on August 14, 2022.

A plan was made to build a meeting hall with 500 million rupees provided to Lamhi Municipality under the intensive urban development program. Similarly, in the second week of July last year, former Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal laid the foundation stone of Gaur Sabha Hall in Gaur. The assembly hall has been started with the money allocated from the intensive urban development program for Gaur Municipality. The money allocated for urban development and physical infrastructure in the municipality is being used to build the assembly hall, which has to be spent on building physical structures such as ponds, lakes, bus parks, and roads.

"Building a meeting hall without proper research from the budget allocated for physical infrastructure is a misuse of funds," said a senior official of the Ministry of Urban Development.

The International Assembly-Conference Development Committee has taken over the operation of the meeting hall built at Godavari in Lalitpur. The then Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli laid the foundation stone of the building at a cost of 810 million rupees on October 22, 2019. He inaugurated the assembly hall on May 14, 2021.

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