Children in Jajarkot villages deprived of nutrition payLocal officials say around Rs 4.7 million meant for nutrition allowance was frozen, as NIC Asia bank could not release the amount on time.
Bhim Bahadur Singh
As many as 920 children below five years of age in Bheri Municipality of Jajarkot district have not received their nutrition allowance for the past year.
“We went to NIC Asia Bank several times to get the allowance for our children. But we had to return empty-handed,” said Sanju Karki, a resident of the municipality. “It’s the negligence of the bank that has led to this situation. We have submitted a memorandum to the local unit to draw the attention of the local administration.”
The federal government started providing nutrition allowance to children below five years old in Jajarkot a few years ago to control malnutrition among children. A child is entitled to Rs 400 per month under the nutrition allowance programme.
Children within the age bracket in wards 4, 8, 9 and 10 have not received the allowance for the fiscal year 2020/21. Around Rs 4.7 million meant for the nutrition allowance scheme was frozen, as the financial institution could not release the amount on time for distribution.
All 13 wards of Bheri Municipality distribute social security allowance and the nutrition allowance through various financial institutions. The office of wards 4, 8, 9 and 10 use NIC Asia to distribute allowances, while other wards use Nepal Bank Limited, Rastriya Banijya Bank and Citizens Bank, among others.
According to Dal Bahadur Gharti, the acting chief administrative officer of the municipality, all other banks, except NIC Asia, have released the nutrition allowance.
Gharti said the municipality issued a cheque to NIC Asia Bank with other required documents on July 13 to process the allowance.
“The cheque should have been cashed within 15 days and the amount credited to the beneficiaries’ accounts,” he said. “However, the amount got frozen, as the bank failed to cash the check.”
Meanwhile, Khagendra Malla, branch manager of NIC Asia in Jajarkot, said that all paperwork, including opening bank accounts and verifying documents, for the allowance are being processed at the central office of the bank.
“We could not clear the cheques before the deadline,” Malla said.
According to him, the bank officials are in discussion with Bheri Municipality, the District Treasury Comptroller Office, and the bank’s central office.
“There was a delay in opening bank accounts for the beneficiaries because most of the paperwork needs to be passed through the central office. This is a new system adopted for security purposes,” said Malla.
The District Treasury Comptroller Office in Jajarkot holds both the bank and the municipality responsible for the negligence.
“Cheques could not be cleared on time due to the carelessness of both the Bheri Municipal Office and NIC Asia bank,” said Nareshraj Bhatta, district treasury comptroller officer. “Both the parties could have handled the situation differently. When the municipality knew about the delay in opening bank accounts for beneficiaries, they should have sought other ways. Or the bank could have cleared the cheques first and then transferred the money after bank accounts were opened.”
According to the municipality, the budget for nutrition allowance was released on July 11. As per the agreement with the bank, the municipality had sent a cheque worth Rs 4.7 million to the NIC Asia bank for clearance on July 13.
The absence of allowance has mostly affected children from impoverished households.
“Since they have no money to buy nutritious, healthy food for the babies, the parents are going through a hard time keeping them fed,” said Bijaya Nagarkoti, an official of the Human Rights Network in Jajarkot. “No child should go hungry for a lack of allowance.”
Hari Prasad Devkota, acting chief district officer of Jajarkot, says the local administration will start an investigation into the matter immediately.
According to acting chief administrative officer Gharti, the municipality has been seeking alternate ways to release the nutrition allowance for the last fiscal year. “The District Treasury Comptroller Office should verify documents and the Ministry of Finance should rerelease the amount. We have requested the District Treasury Comptroller Office to start the verification process,” said Gharti.
However, Bhatta from the District Treasury Comptroller Officer in Jajarkot said that the documents should have been verified within seven days of the beginning of the new fiscal year as per the Financial Procedures Act. “We have passed the deadline,” he said.