Province No. 2

Social development ministry of Province 2 transfers health budget for construction works

- ARJUN POUDEL, Kathmandu

May 21, 2019-

The social development ministry of Province 2 has transferred most of the budget allocated for health care services by the provincial government to construction works.

Nawal Kishor Sah (Sudi), minister for social development of the province, transferred the health budget to construction works through a ministerial level decision, according to a copy of the document obtained by the Post.

The document shows that Sah took the decision to transfer the health budget without taking the consent of the secretary at his ministry. The decision paper bears the acting secretary’s signature.

Sources at the ministry said that Secretary Devi Ram Bhandari was not happy with the decision to transfer the budget and opted for a transfer to the federal government.

“I was not involved in the decision. Due to personal reasons, I asked for a transfer to a federal government agency,” said Bhandari.

The ministry has also not taken the consent of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Planning of the province, which had prepared and allocated the budget accordingly.

“The social development ministry refused to implement the budget citing that health care was not high on its priority list,” Arjun Kumar Neupane, under-secretary at the budget division of the provincial ministry of economic affairs and planning, told the Post.

According to Neupane, Sah insisted that health programmes were not a priority for his ministry. He said, “The issue was raised over the anti-mosquito net distribution programme in the provincial assembly.”

Lawmakers objected to running the anti-mosquito net distribution programme under the provincial government citing that it would tarnish the image of the provincial government, and that an understanding was forged to transfer the budget for net distribution to other programmes.

“On that pretext, the social development ministry transferred most of the health budget announced in the provincial budget,” said Neupane.

According to the ministerial level decision, the budget was allocated for mental health programmes, cardiovascular disease, leprosy, hydrocele surgery, lymphatic filariasis, training of health workers, child health and immunisation programmes, urban health programmes, and construction of primary health care centers, among others.

The budget for these purposes has been transferred to and utilised for the construction of school rooms, school compounds, organising sports events, providing funds to clubs and local organisations, construction of cremation facilities, and community buildings, which do not fall under the ambit of the social development ministry.

Health workers serving at the ministry said that the transfer of budget from one heading to another was illegal, as the budget approved by the provincial assembly cannot be transferred by a ministerial-level decision.

Rameshwor Khanal, former finance secretary, said that the provincial ministry does not have the authority to transfer the entire budget of the equalisation grant given by the federal government.

“They can make transfers of up to 10 percent of the total budget and in the presence of their own Act they can transfer up to 20 percent but they cannot transfer the entire budget,” said Khanal.

Health experts have warned of setbacks in health indicators as a result of this transfer of budget, as the province lags behind in health indicators including human development index compared to other provinces of the country.

Published: 22-05-2019 06:30

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