Doubling grants to local bodies: FinMin defends moveAmid doubts over proper utilisation of funds provided to local bodies, Finance Minister Bishnu Paudel has defended a steep rise in the allocation in the budget for the next fiscal year
Amid doubts over proper utilisation of funds provided to local bodies, Finance Minister Bishnu Paudel has defended a steep rise in the allocation in the budget for the next fiscal year, stating the move is aimed at making the local bodies more powerful and resource-rich.
The government has doubled the grant to VDCs (Village Development Committees) to Rs 15.15 billion and that to municipalities has been doubled to Rs13.09 billion in the budget for 2016-17 presented on Saturday.
The hike in the allocations, despite reports about gross misuse of such grants in absence of elected local bodies, is being interpreted as a move taken by the CPN (UML)-led government keeping an eye on planned local elections.
In the new budget, the government has also revived the “Afno Gaun Afai Banau” (let’s build our village ourselves) scheme, while the grant to municipalities have been hiked under the slogan of “Afno Nagar Afai Sajaun”(let’s decorate (build) our city ourselves).
Minister Paudel said at a programme here on Sunday the government thought keeping the power and resources inside Sinha Durbar (the central authority) and distrusting the local bodies was not a good idea. The government has allocated a total of Rs32.64 billion for grant to local bodies.
The minister, however, said the government was committed to carrying out reforms at local-level administrative bodies to ensure better utilisation of the resources.
Paudel also defended the hike in the budget for social security schemes. The budget has doubled the allowance being provided to the elderly people, widows, single women, differently-abled people and people from endangered communities. It has allocated Rs32.70 billion for the purpose.
Critics have termed the move “populist”, but Poudel said the state cannot shrug off its responsibility for the disadvantaged people.
Another move that drew criticism was doubling budget for lawmakers under the Constituency Development Programme (CDP). The budget has been hiked to Rs30 million for each constituency from the current Rs15 million, while each lawmaker will receive an additional Rs5 million. Currently, the budget for each lawmaker under the programme is Rs2 million.
Despite reports about the misuse of such funds by lawmakers, the government reportedly hiked the budget amid intense pressure from the lawmakers.
“The budget has also made arrangement to discourage the funds misuse,” the minister said. “The funds can be spent only in projects approved by District, Municipal and Village Councils and the projects should be determined by both directly-elected lawmakers and those elected under proportional system,” he said.
“Besides auditing from the Office of Auditor General, public audit should also be conducted of the CDP projects.”