Budget, staff transfers wedge in NC-UML ties

  • UML leaders miffed at NC’s ‘unilateral’ preparations for fiscal budget
- BHADRA SHARMA, Kathmandu
Budget, staff transfers wedge in NC-UML ties

May 30, 2014-

Relations between the Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML have been strained due to their conflicting interests in key appointments and transfers in government bodies, budget preparation and transfer of unspent budget.

Such is the difference that the UML threatened to obstruct pre-budget discussions in Parliament that began on Friday. The disagreements between the two major coalition partners became visible as the government had just completed 100 days in office.

The UML, nearly as strong as the NC in Parliament, is miffed at the largest party after it unilaterally started preparations for the upcoming fiscal budget. Without consulting UML ministers, NC ministers channelised unspent budget meant for some national pride projects to the constituencies of their party leaders.

UML ministers and lawmakers allege that more than Rs 4 billion of development funds was transferred to the NC ministers’ home constituencies in the last couple of weeks.

UML lawmaker Rabindra Adhikari said the Finance Ministry has given nod to transfer Rs 950 million of the Sikta Irrigation Project for embankment and irrigation projects in Kanchanpur and Kailai districts while the Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development doled out Rs 510 million under non-budgetary headings. UML leaders allege that the re-allocation of Sikta funds was done at the behest of Irrigation Minister NP Saud.

Dissatisfied at the budget formulation process, UML senior leaders including Chairman Jhala Nath Khanal had requested Prime Minister Sushil Koirala to re-work on the fiscal plan and address his party’s concerns before Koirala’s India visit.

Getting no hint of their demands being met, former finance ministers from UML Bharat Mohan Adhikari and Surendra Pandey drew the attention of Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat on Thursday over their perception of rampant budget transfers and undermining the UML in budget planning.

On the other hand, the NC charges the UML with taking unilateral decisions in transfers and appointments. An aide to Koirala said the PM was never informed about the transfer of five dozen CDOs and DSPs by Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Bam Dev Gautam.

“The futile exercise to transfer SSP Ramesh Kharel has ruined the image of the coalition,” said the aide, adding, however, that it would be inappropriate for the NC to engage in a blame game.

UML lawmakers and leaders on Friday criticised UML ministers for their “weak” performance in government. “Are our ministers aware of the funds being siphoned off?” they asked UML ministers during the party’s Parliamentary Party meeting on Friday. Some leaders demanded that the party recall its ministers for the Cabinet’s poor performance.

After the UML started upping the ante against the NC “high-handedness”, the latter has started discussions on how to calm the ruling partner down and go together until the promulgation of the new constitution.

On Friday, a team of NC and UML leaders sat and discussed the pent-up issues and agreed to table the budget in consensus. On Thursday, a meeting of the NC officer bearers decided to take the UML in confidence.

“There will be no problem between the two parties. The treasury bill will be tabled in consensus,” said Minister for Information and Communications Minendra Rijal.

UML Secretary Bishnu Poudel said the NC was urged not to spend from the state coffers haphazardly. “We have no idea whether the government has prepared the budget. This is a coalition government and the NC has agreed that budget will be prepared in consensus,” said Poudel.

At the heart of the disagreement

 -Budget preparation

 -Non-budgetary fund transfers

 -Official appointments

 -DIG promotion

 -Allocation of local budget

 -CDO transfers

Published: 31-05-2014 08:29

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