KATHMANDU, May 26: The National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) has recently sought clarification from Nepal Red Cross Society (NRCS) after receiving complaints that health-related rehabilitation projects run by the NRCS in the earthquake-hit districts have been marred by irregularities.
“After we received complaints from multiple sources that Red Cross officials spent only a portion of the funds approved for reconstruction of health posts and other health-related infrastructures under a rehabilitation program and embezzled most of the funds, we have asked the organization to furnish the details of the projects,” Chandra Bahadur Shrestha, an NRA executive committee member, said.
According to him, the NRA last week sought the details of around 30 buildings, which the NRCS had been given permission to rebuild under the rehabilitation program.
“We are forming a monitoring committee next week to carry out field inspection of NRCS’ health-related rehabilitation projects. We will focus on the projects against which complaints have been received, and inspect other projects as well. We will also work in coordination with our district bodies to find out whether irregularities had really taken place in the NRCS-handled projects,” he added.
According to NRA officials, one of the projects in which irregularities by NRCS officials has been suspected is Majhuwa Health Post reconstruction in Sunkoshi village of Sindhuli district.
For the reconstruction of a two-room thatched-roof structure of Majhuwa health post, NRCS had spent over Rs 1.6 million, said Bharat Shrestha, district program coordinator of Emergency Response Operation of NRCS. NRCS had initially endorsed Rs 1.3 million for the reconstruction of the health post.
Shrestha said that the construction cost went up after the District Health Office requested NRCS to build the health post in another location and the rooms were bigger than the original design and they also constructed a toilet for the health post.
However, NRA officials said that complaints have been received that NRCS officials embezzled funds while building the health posts.
“We have received complaints that NRCS officials were involved in financial irregularities. They have been accused of carrying out only basic construction works and pocketing the rest of the funds. Our monitoring team will check if the funds meant for the projects were properly spent or not,” NRA’s Chandra Bahadur Shrestha said.
In Sindhuli alone, NRCS had sought permission to reconstruct five health posts. While the organization has completed reconstruction of three health post buildings and handed them over to the authorities concerned, they plan to hand over two other buildings to the local bodies soon.
Shrestha said that the NRA will take legal action against NRCS if irregularities are found during the field inspection.
Last year, documents obtained by Republica showed NRCS had spent Rs 245 million meant for earthquake victims on administrative activities and for the purchase of various luxury items instead of channelizing the money for earthquake reconstruction and rehabilitation.
Similarly, the humanitarian body was recently found defying government regulations and arbitrarily spending billions of rupees without seeking approval from the government authorities concerned.