Corruption thrives in development projects due to lack of monitoringMost projects in Sudurpaschim Province are selected to appease party activists, officials say
Construction works of a proposed irrigation project in Baitadi district, for which the Sudurpaschim government had allocated Rs 5 million, have yet to begin although the fiscal year 2018-19 is drawing to its end.
The provincial government had issued the budget to develop an irrigation facility at Khailad village in Patan Municipality-6, but the project never took off.
Khailad residents claim that the budget meant for the project was misappropriated by a small group of people by forming a fake consumers’ committee in cahoots with local politicians and municipal officials.
The law states that every consumers’ committee should be formed through a consensus of local population and get approval from the ward office of the concerned local unit before the approval is forwarded to the provincial government.
Dan Bahadur Chanda, a local man, said the majority of the beneficiaries of the irrigation project were kept in the dark when the consumers’ committee was formed.
“There are 20 families living in the proposed project area, but only six families were consulted while forming the committee. And the ward office approved it due to political pressure,” Chanda said.
However, ward chairman of Patan-6 Lalit Chand denied any wrongdoing. Talking to the Post a few days ago, he claimed the ward office gave its approval to the project after confirming that the consumers’ committee was formed with the consent of villagers.
The villagers, however, think otherwise, and they are ready to challenge the ward office’s claim.
A delegation, led by Harsha Bahadur Chand, reached Dhangadhi, the capital of Sudurpaschim Province, recently and filed a complaint at the Physical Infrastructure Ministry, demanding to disband the consumers’ committee.
Asked about the consumers’ committee allegedly formed without consensus, Govinda Bhatta, sub-engineer at Division Irrigation Office in Patan, Baitadi, said that the division office did not have any role in forming the committee. “The consumers’ committee should be approved by the ward office and we have to act accordingly,” he added.
The division office has called for both the sides to hold discussions into the matter.
In the absence of a monitoring mechanism, development projects— as in the case of the irrigation project in Patan Municipality— have become a tool for misusing budgets through fake consumers’ committees, development experts say.
Kanten Irrigation Project in Navadurga of Dadeldhura district was also embroiled in a similar controversy.
The Physical Infrastructure Ministry had allocated Rs 3.2 million budget to dig a canal to irrigate a paddy field of Narendra Shahi, an activist of ruling Nepal Communist Party. The project took off without any monitoring mechanism in place.
Following public outrage, Physical Infrastructure Minister Pathan Singh Bohara himself went to the area for a field inspection.
The ministry said the cost of the project was slashed to Rs 1.9 million after the minister’s field visit.
These are just examples of malpractices in development projects. Most of the projects funded by the provincial government are left incomplete due to lack of monitoring.
An officer at the ministry said that the ministry was compelled to issue budgets for various development projects without evaluation because they were lobbied for by political party activists.
“Who will monitor the projects selected on the basis of party influence? Many development projects in most of rural municipalities are not based on necessity,” said one government official requesting anonymity.
There are several projects of the federal government with budget more than Rs 1.5 billion in Dadeldhura. There are even more development projects of the provincial executive in Baitadi.
“There is shortage of employees at the provincial government. The local units can be mobilised, but the government has not coordinated with them for project monitoring,” said the government official.