No records of resources spent on officials’ foreign visitsVarious ministries are spending lavishly from the state coffers in the name of foreign visits without studying the benefits, the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) has pointed out.
Various ministries are spending lavishly from the state coffers in the name of foreign visits without studying the benefits, the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) has pointed out.
Such is government officials’ penchant for foreign visits that they have gone even on trips sponsored by donors and international non-government organisations.
While the Directives on Foreign Visits by VVIPS, VIPs, Luncheon, Dinner and Gifts-2015 bars special class (secretary) and first class (joint-secretary) level officials from enjoying foreign visits sponsored by donors/INGOs expect those associated with the United Nations, many of such senior officials have been found to be visiting abroad in such arrangements, according to the OAG.
The auditor general’s report shows that more than 600 officials made foreign trips in the fiscal year 2016-17 either from government resources or under donors’ sponsorship but there are no records of how much donors spent on the tours.
The 55th annual report said that the ministries concerned have not maintained the records of donors’ expenditures for their staffers. “Records of such expenditures must be maintained and knowledge and skills acquired by officials utilised properly,” the report says.
The Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development tops the chart when it comes to foreign visits by government officials. According to the report, 272 officials including those from municipalities visited abroad but failed to name the sources of expenditure and amounts spent on their trips. They had visited countries like Denmark, China, South Korea, Malaysia, Israel, Japan, Thailand, the Philippines, South Africa and the Netherlands for observation and seminars in the last fiscal year.
As many as 42 officials under the Ministry of Population and Environment visited 37 countries with the assistance of 50 donors in the fiscal year 2016-17. Staffers ranging from secretary to lower level officials spent a total of 445 days abroad.
From the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare, as many as 24 officials visited 10 countries. Staffers from secretary to lower level officials remained abroad for a total of 237 days with sponsorships from 15 donors. “During the audit, we also saw the government officials visiting foreign countries from these ministries with help from INGOs,” said Deputy Auditor General Baburam Gautam.
According to the report, as many as 19 civil servants from the Ministry of Science and Technology visited 14 countries 39 times. The trips were sponsored by two donors.
Several foreign trips are being conducted with domestic resources but the government agencies have failed to list the achievements from these visits. As many as 286 farmers visited the Philippines, Thailand, India, Vietnam, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Switzerland and Malaysia for observation, training and study from five different projects under the Ministry of Agriculture Development. While the government spent a total of Rs66.37 million, the achievements have not been assessed.
As many as 189 officials from the Ministry of Education, including the minister, visited 23 countries 203 times in total. They have not disclosed fully the source of expenditures and amounts spent on the trips. Only the details of expenditures made by 10 officials including then education minister and secretary visiting Australia and other 19 officials visiting Hong Kong are available, the report said.
The details of expenditures worth Rs9.93 million to two places do not represent overall expenditure in foreign trips by Education Ministry officials, the report said.
Secretary at the General Administration Ministry Dinesh Thapaliya said he could not confirm immediately if his ministry maintained proper accounts of resources either from the government or the donors without studying the details. “Officials from our ministry have visited foreign countries by following the due procedure,” he claimed.