‘MPs spent as they pleased’

- KAMAL DEV BHATTARAI, Kathmandu
‘MPs spent as they pleased’

Jul 11, 2015-At a time when the government is preparing to increase budget for Constituency Development Programme (CDP) bowing to lawmakers’ pressure, reports of arbitrary spending by people’s representatives have been revealed.

Last year, the government had allocated Rs10 million for each of the 240 constituencies to be spent under the direct supervision of the Constituent Assembly member. This year, they have been mounting pressure on the government to increase the amount to Rs50 million. Besides, the government had also increased the Parliamentary Development Fund by Rs500,000 to Rs 1.5 million for all lawmakers.

A preliminary report prepared by Freedom Forum, a non-governmental organisation, shows that budget allocated under both headings was not used in development projects. The study conducted in 60 districts found that the lawmakers selected the projects to please their supporters/cadres flouting the guidelines of the Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development.

According to the document, Local Development Minister Prakash Man Singh, who was elected from Kathmandu constituency-1, spent the money on installing solar lights in his constituency. He claims to have installed solar lights in front of the CA building, spending most of the money on it. In fact, the Kathmandu Metropolitan City had set them up there as part of the preparations for the Saarc Summit.

The directive states that the budget should prioritise old development projects stalled due to the lack of funds. Other areas specified for budget are reconstruction of physical infrastructure damaged by natural disasters and on disaster preparedness projects.

The budget allocated for CDP should be spent in coordination with the District Development Committees, municipalities and Villages Development Committees. The directives also require the money to be spent on infrastructure development and employment generation in the constituencies concerned. But the documents provided by the DDCs to Freedom Forum show that most lawmakers failed to meet the criteria while selecting the projects. The documents were obtained by exercising the right to information.

The spending is suspicious as the development projects mentioned in the reports are not clear. For instance, location of the ‘road construction’ and ‘infrastructure development’, among other projects, where the expenditures were made has not been specified.

Rameshwor Phuyal, UML lawmaker from Kathmandu-3, spent the money on Public Service Commission exam preparations while some of it reportedly went to the Madan Ashrit Auditorium. He claimed that the expenditure is in line with the directives prepared by the ministry. Phuyal, however, underlined the need for an effective mechanism to monitor the use of such funds. Rajendra  Kumar KC, Nepali Congress lawmaker from Kathmandu-10, provided the money to Ganesh Man Memorial Institute for purchasing trumpets and computers, and for conducting training  programmes.

Bhimsen Das Pradhan, NC CA member from Kathmandu-9, also provided Rs600,000 for the institute to purchase trumpets.

The study shows that most of the money was given to institutions affiliated to the party that the lawmaker represents. NC lawmaker Ram Hari Khatiwada said that fund misuse by some lawmakers had put the programme in negative light even though it is good in principle.

The documents also show that budget allocated for CDP was scattered into small development projects, contrary to the directives. UML lawmaker Rabindra Adhikari said people had got bad impression of the programme. “There are many good examples from last year of the scheme. And there are cases of misuse too,” he said. Last year, cross-party lawmakers had threatened not to pass the budget if their demands were not met.

While the NC Parliamentary Party meeting had asked the government to allocate Rs50 million, the Finance Ministry allocated Rs10 million, promising “gradual increment every year”.

Ways of funds misuse

-    Funds not used in development projects

-    Lawmakers selected projects to please their supporters

-    Claiming project developed by another agency as their own

-    Project location not specified

-     Money given to institutions affiliated to lawmaker’s party

-     Budget scattered into numerous small projects

Published: 12-07-2015 07:57

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