Oli refuses to respond to demand that government furnish details of Rs10 billion it has spent to fight Covid-19This is not the right time to worry about the expenditure; this is the time to worry about the coronavirus, the prime minister says in the House.
Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli on Wednesday refused to give details about the Rs10 billion that his government claims to have spent in Covid-19 response.
“Let’s focus on the Covid-19 response now; every detail of the expenditure will be made public in due course of time,” said Oli at the House of Representatives today in response to demands by the primary opposition Nepali Congress that the government furnish the proper breakdown of the money spent to fight Covid-19.
The Oli government is facing criticism for its poor handling of Covid-19 and its indulgence in irregularities and corruption in the time of the current pandemic.
Oli as well as his Cabinet ministers until a few months ago were bent on building a narrative that the coronavirus will not have any effect on this country.
But when two cases were reported, the government imposed a lockdown on March 24, which entered its 78th day on Wednesday. The Oli government is also facing criticism for failing to utilise the window provided by the lockdown to improve quarantine centres, expand polymerase chain reaction testing and ease restrictions to prepare the ground for reopening the economy.
On Tuesday, the Nepali Congress demanded that the government furnish the details of the money spent as well as what all it has done to respond to the pandemic.
“The government says it has bought five PCR machines and 25,000 testing kits,” said Gagan Thapa, a Congress lawmaker, on Wednesday while speaking at the House. “But it also says it has spent Rs10 billion. Where was the money spent? We need an answer.”
Without providing a specific answer to the demand for making the details public, Oli said that the local and provincial government have also spent the money from the same Rs10 billion.
He said suspecting that the money has been misused will be injustice to all levels of government, particularly the governments at the local level that have been working tremendously to fight Covid-19.
To allegations that there have been irregularities in medical equipment procurement, Oli said it is wrong to think that there has been corruption while the government is struggling to manage adequate funds to combat the disease.
Congress lawmaker Thapa had challenged Oli to furnish the price list of the medical items procured by the government.
“Every detail of government's expenditure comes before the House and the President. There is an internal audit of government's expenditures,” said Oli. “Let’s not worry about the expenditure, let’s worry about Covid-19 now.”
He also blamed the media for not seeing the positive sides, saying that a certain section of the media is doing agenda-based reporting to “tarnish the image of the government.