Many local units leave their employees high and dryStaffs have not been paid since the beginning of the current fiscal year due to the failure to present budget and dispute among elected representatives.
Life has been hard for Keshav Kumar Jha, information officer at Mahadewa Rural Municipality of Saptari, as he has not received his monthly salary since the beginning of the current fiscal year that began in July.
With the local government failing to present the budget for the fiscal year 2019-20, the rural municipality has been unable to release funds for providing salaries to its employees.
Legally, only after the budget is passed by the village assembly will the rural municipality be able to distribute salaries.
“It has become difficult to run my life as I have not received my salary for more than three months,” Jha told the Post.
“Dashain holidays are going to begin in the next 2-3 days and we are still waiting in anticipation of when the salary would be distributed.”
The rural municipality is responsible for distributing salary to staff working in the rural municipality, its wards, public health facilities and public school teachers, among others.
“Amid such a situation, a recent meeting of the village executive decided to provide salary from the consolidated fund of the rural municipality, subject to reimbursement to the fund later,” said Sanjaya Kumar Shah, chief administrative officer at Mahadewa.
As per the decision of the rural municipality, Shah has held discussions with the District Treasury Office, which approved the village executive’s decision. “Before the holiday begins, we will distribute salary to the staff,” Shah said.
At the heart of delay is growing differences between Chairperson Dipak Kumar Yadav and Vice-chairperson Mamata Kumari Yadav, both of them elected from erstwhile Sanghiya Samajwadi Forum, which has now become Samajwadi Party Nepal after the merger with Naya Shakti Party.
“The chairperson has not been involving me in the decision making,” complained Vice-chairperson Mamata Kumari. She also said that the Dipak Kumar has been reluctant to disclose the income and expenditure of the rural municipality.
“I have been demanding that those details be provided to me before the Village Assembly is held,” she said.
The rural municipality has set the date of Village Assembly for October 14. Mahadewa is one of more than a dozen local governments which have yet to present the budget for the current fiscal year, according to the Ministry of Federal Affairs and General Administration.
As per the Intergovernmental Fiscal Arrangement Act, all local governments should present their fiscal budgets by June 25.
But a number of local governments have been failed to honour these legal provisions ever since elected representatives assumed offices.
The problem is similar in Rajgadh Rural Municipality, Saptari, where the budget is yet to be presented for this fiscal year. Here too, the government employees have not received their salaries.
Ramesh Prasad Yadav, chief administrative officer of the rural municipality, said that a decision has been taken to take funds out from the consolidated fund to distribute salaries to the staff.
“Government staffs have had to depend on their own money to live until now due to the delay in budget presentation,” said Ramesh Prasad.
The rural municipality has set November 1 as the date to hold village assembly where the budget will be presented.
It has not been many days since Kamala Municipality in Dhanusa district presented the budget for the current fiscal year. The municipality had presented the budget on September 13, nearly three months past the deadline set by the law.
According to Umesh Kumar Yadav, chief administrative officer at the municipality, the dispute over how to distribute resources to different wards resulted in the delay in budget presentation.
As a result, the municipality has also not distributed salary to the government staff since the beginning of the current fiscal year. “District Treasury Office has not yet released the budget for us to distribute salary,” said Umesh Kumar.
While salary distribution has been difficult for the local governments failing to present a budget this year, the local people too have been denied development in their areas. Without approval of the budget from the local assembly, the local government cannot spend from its budget.
“For two months, the municipality could do nothing as the budget was not presented,” said Umesh Kumar.
The federal government has been penalising errant local governments. Recently, as per the guidelines set by the Finance Ministry, the concerned District Treasury Offices had withheld grants meant for local governments that had failed to present their budgets.