Parliament secretariat wants to buy laptops for lawmakers. MPs say it’s misuse of state resourcesThe Finance Ministry has transferred Rs 34.40 million to procure personal computers for Members of Parliament
The Parliament Secretariat has invited bids to supply 334 laptops for all the members of federal parliament, in a bid to what officials say make all the House business paperless.
In April, the Ministry of Finance transferred Rs 34.4 million for the procurement, allocated as development budget.
As a part of the initiative, all the 334 members of the House of Representatives and National Assembly will receive one laptop each on condition that they return the device once their term expires. Apart from two-thirds lawmakers from the Upper House, the remaining 354 MPs have at least five years of tenure.
Officials at the secretariat say the decision to provide the laptops is an initiative towards reducing the use of paper and gradually making parliamentary proceedings paperless.
“Millions of rupees spent on printing documents could be saved if they start sending soft copies of the documents related to the House proceedings via email,” Roj Nath Pandey, spokesperson for the secretariat, told the Post. He added that the distribution of laptops will be over by the end of the current fiscal year (mid-July).
However, not all lawmakers are amused about receiving a laptop free of cost. Many of them who spoke to the Post say the secretariat has misplaced its priorities.
“Can’t lawmakers buy laptops on their own if they need one?” said Ram Kumari Jhakri, a Nepal Communist Party (NCP) member of the Lower House. She said a majority of lawmakers use smartphones that already have every facility to use the internet—from email to social media.
Jhankri said the secretariat took the decision without consulting with the lawmakers. “The secretariat, if it wanted, could have distributed the laptops as demanded by the lawmakers concerned,” she told the Post.
The decision to provide laptops comes amid huge public criticism over an increment in the budget for the Local Infrastructure Development Partnership Programme—to be used with the consent of lawmakers elected under the first-past-the-post category—to Rs 60 million from Rs 40 million—for the next fiscal year.
“There should be no act of distributing laptops to lawmakers. Those who wish to use them should manage themselves. Lawmakers can do it,” Bhim Rawal, a senior leader of the ruling communist party, wrote on Twitter.
The federal parliament doesn’t have its own building. Many House committees, including the Finance Committee for instance, don’t have a separate hall to conduct hearing. And there is no dedicated place for lawmakers within Singha Durbar. The lawmakers say the focus of the secretariat should be on fixing these problems, rather than wasting money from the state coffers on irrelevant purchases.
The building that hosts the federal parliament is currently rented from the International Convention Centre. Successive governments have announced their plan to construct a parliament building in Singha Durbar but work has yet to begun.
Though ruling party lawmakers have stood against the distribution of laptops, many from the opposition say they have not been informed about the decision. “I have not received official information about the issue so far. We will take our position after evaluating the motive behind it,” Nepali Congress whip Pushpa Bhusal told the Post.
But the official at the secretariat said because the initiative was taken with good intentions, there was no need to make negative remarks. “Those lawmakers who don’t want the laptops are free not to take one,” he said