Govt plans new mechanism for reconstruction

Government is preparing to set up a temporary mechanism through a formation order to spearhead reconstruction activities until the bill is passedRam sharan mahat

Sep 5, 2015-The government is preparing to set up a mechanism by issuing a formation order to coordinate post-earthquake reconstruction activities after the National Reconstruction Authority lost its validity.

The formation of the authority and the appointment of its chief executive officer turned invalid after the Parliament failed to pass a replacement bill on an ordinance forming the authority.

As per the Interim Constitution, an ordinance remains valid for 60 days from the beginning of the Legislature Parliament meeting. The ordinance expires if the Parliament fails to pass a replacement bill within the period.

The current session of parliament had begun on June 30.

As the authority, which had been allocated Rs74 billion, lost its validity, concerns are being raised whether such a huge budget would be spent and those rendered homeless would get their houses reconstructed in time.

The quake killed 8,773 people and injured 22,304, according to the Home Ministry. A total of 505,577 private houses were fully damaged, while 278,907 houses were partially damaged. Over 6,031 government buildings were damaged.

Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat said the government was preparing to set up a temporary mechanism through a formation order to spearhead reconstruction activities until the bill is passed. He said the next Cabinet meeting could decide on it.

Mahat blamed the UCPN (Maoist) for blocking the bill’s passage. The Maoists were against the replacement bill as they sought changes in some provisions of the bill to empower the authority, while the ruling coalition member CPN (UML) had sought to reduce the power of the Prime Minister. “I am in favour of reconstruction works being carried out without any political intervention,” said Mahat.

According to the officials at the Prime Minister’s office (PMO), there had been discussions on forming a mechanism headed by the vice-chairman of the National Planning Commission (NPC) and secretaries of line ministries. “Such a proposal was prepared by a legal section of the PMO and it was discussed at last Cabinet meeting,” a PMO source said. “However, the Cabinet could not take any decision.”

Shanta Raj Subedi, a secretary at the PMO, said the current bill tabled at the Parliament should be amended if the formation of the authority and its works were to be given validity. “The current bill was tabled before the ordinance lost its validity and it has not made provisions on giving validity to the works of the authority,” he said. “Otherwise, the new authority and the new chief executive officer should be appointed through a fresh process.”

The donors have shown concerns over the authority going into “hibernation” at a time when the government has allocated a huge budget and donors have committed as high as $4.4 billion to help the reconstruction process.

Asian Development Bank (ADB) Country Director for Nepal, Kenichi Yokoyama termed the situation a setback. “We are concerned about the current situation,” he said. “We expect the authority would be reconstituted soon.”

The authority was formed to expedite the reconstruction process by making a provision in the ordinance that it would not have to follow the existing laws related to public procurement, land acquisition and environment impact assessment, enabling it to take quick decisions.

The donors are concerned that without a legal backing to fast-track the process, it may take a long time to carry forward reconstruction.

“Working through the existing mechanism could result in time overrun without fast track mechanism that was ensured to the authority,” said Yokoyama. “In the absence of a dedicated institution, existing departments will dual priority of implementing the regular projects and reconstruction and the latter work may not get adequate focus.”

Published: 05-09-2015 09:29

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