Billions in unspent dev budget for Tarai frozenA large chunk of the development budget allocated to the middle and western regions of the Tarai has been frozen as it remained unspent after development activities slowed during the Tarai unrest and Indian blockade.
A large chunk of the development budget allocated to the middle and western regions of the Tarai has been frozen as it remained unspent after development activities slowed during the Tarai unrest and Indian blockade.
The government has been increasing funding for the middle Tarai region for the last two years as it has a low Human Developm-ent Index. Programmes related to improving the living standards of deprived communities have been given high priority. The government’s red book also contains a long list of such schemes, but they have not been implemented.
Stakeholders said most of the government offices here remained closed for almost six months during the Madhes agitation, affecting development activities. TR Panthi, an officer at the District Treasury Office, Bara, said the region had received a budget allocation of Rs6 billion in the last fiscal year. According to him, Rs130 million of the district development committee (DDC), Rs110 million of the education office and Rs10 million of the public heath office remained unspent.
Frequent transfers of the project chief have further slowed the development of the infrastructure sector. Sociologist Birendra Kumar Sah said failure to use the budget would affect the development process in the long run.
Likewise, political turmoil that appears time and again has hit consensus among government officials, social leaders and local political cadres. A slow disbursement process and lack of manpower and other resources have also affected development work.
Chhathu Yadav, former chairman of Bara DDC, said that government agencies that have not been able to spend their budget allocations should be penalised.
As budget allocations have remained unspent, the funds provided for education, local development, public health and urban development have been returned to the government treasury.
“This has perpetuated the poor living conditions of the people,” said Subodh Kumar Gupta, senior vice-president of the District Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Birgunj. He stressed the need to minimise corruption and hold elections to local bodies to resolve the problem.
Meanwhile, a total of Rs682 million allocated to Sarlahi district last year has been frozen. Pawan Mahato, chief of the District Treasury Office, Sarlahi, said development activities and capacity building tasks came to a halt during the period of unrest. According to him, Rs40 million of Sarlahi DDC and Rs2 million of the Parliament Member Development Fund were not used in the last fiscal year.
Officials of most of the proposed projects have sought approval for budget disbursement just before the end of the fiscal year without completing their work. DDC officer Bishwa Raj Pokharel said they would release the money only after checking the projects’ status.
The political parties were able to reach a consensus only towards the end of the fiscal year. Maoist leader Raj Kumar Roy said the practice of working only at the end of the fiscal year had created problems in utilizing the allocated money. Local activist Ugrakant Jha said a preoccupation with obtaining individual benefits also created problems in utilizing the allocated budget on time.
The government offices in Parsa are also reported to have returned a total of Rs520 million to the treasury. Hridaya Narayan Sah, chief of the District Treasury Office, Parsa, said money allocated to the offices of irrigation, federal and local development, physical planning, construction and transport management and urban development, in particular, were not utilized. Of the Rs1.68 billion allocated to these offices, only Rs1.16 billion was spent in 2015-16.
Likewise, of the Rs318.1 million earmarked for Narayani Irriga-tion Management Division-5 under the irrigation development division, only Rs258.3 million was spent. Only Rs167.6 million out of the Rs251.3 million allocated for Parsa DDC, Birgunj Sub-Metropolitan City and Pokhariya Municipality was spent.
Similarly, Rs349.5 million out of the Rs508.2 allocated for the postal highway was spent.
Local Development Officer Bishwa Prakash Aryal said that a budget allocation amounting to Rs149.7 million was frozen in the district, and half of that was for ‘Sunaula Hajaar Din’.
Aryal said slow work by contractors led to Rs30 million allocated for road and bridge construction being frozen. Only Rs40 million out of the Rs200 million allocated for the postal highway was used.
A total of Rs270 million of Kapilvastu district was returned to the government treasury last year. Failure to award contracts on time and delays in delegating authority affected tasks related to roads, irrigation and bridges.
Divisional engineer Raj Parajuli at the District Technical Office in Kapilvastu said Rs5 million set aside for building a suspension bridge was frozen. “The main reason for this was lack of bids,” he said.
According to the District Treasury Office, Kapilvastu, Rs268 million out of the Rs4.72 billion allocated for the district was frozen in the last fiscal year.