Poverty alleviation fund to come under Ministry of Land

A PMO official says the Cabinet decision to rejig Poverty Alleviation Fund is not connected to World Bank stopping its aid

Nov 21, 2018-Fifteen years after running as an autonomous organisation, the Poverty Alleviation Fund (PAF) will come under the Ministry of Land Management, Cooperatives and Poverty Alleviation, according to a Cabinet decision last week.

Established in 2003 with the aim of reducing extreme poverty through targeted programmes, the PAF operates in 62 out of the country’s 77 districts. PAF officials claim that it has benefitted four million people from 956,000 households.

Establishment of a separate ministry to deal with poverty, election of local and provincial governments, and discontinuation of the World Bank grant from December this year are the key factors that prompted the government to bring the PAF under the specific ministry, officials said.

With the Cabinet decision, its contact office will be the Poverty Alleviation Ministry while the Fund will be chaired by the poverty alleviation minister, said Lal Shankar Ghimire, Secretary at the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). For this, the PAF Act has to be amended.

The government planned to amend or scrap the PAF Act by mid-December. A branch will be created at the ministry to coordinate the Fund’s programmes in line with the Cabinet decision.

A joint-secretary at the ministry will head the branch while the PAF staff will be retired, a senior official at the Poverty Alleviation Ministry said. The ministry had lobbied hard to bring the PAF under its purview.

PAF officials said that the World Bank, which provided grants to fund poverty alleviation programmes, has pulled out citing the country’s economic progress.

The PAF has sought $500 million as soft loan from the government to continue with its programmes from 2018 to 2030. But the Finance Ministry has not responded positively to the request, PAF officials said. Without donor support, the government found it expensive to run the programme under the same structure where staff members are relatively better paid than civil servants, according to PAF officials.

However, Ghimire said that the decision to realign the PAF had nothing to do with the World Bank discounting with its aid.

“When the latest WB grant for the PAF was approved, the WB had already decided to discontinue with its grant. So the grants committed to other programmes were diverted to the PAF,” he told the Post.

Earlier, a seven-member team of secretaries formed by the government to recommend measures had suggested restructuring the PAF.

The PAF was formed during the Maoist insurgency to carry out targeted programmes through community organisations when elected local councils did not exist.

“The situation has changed now with the presence of local governments and provincial governments to operate the programmes at the grassroots level,” said Laxman Aryal, secretary at the National Planning Commission, a member of the team. With a Rs13 billion revolving fund to carry out anti-poverty programmes, memoranda of understanding have been signed with 544 local governments for monitoring their implementation.

Besides, irregularities by top officials had also prompted the government to bring the Fund under the ministry, officials said.

The Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority filed a case against 14 PAF officials at the Special Court on March 11, 2015, charging them with embezzling funds.

The Special Court on September 25 this year slapped nine officials, including then executive director Raj Babu Shrestha, held guilty of the charges with five months in jail.

Published: 21-11-2018 07:02

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