Ministries ‘demand billions of rupees’

- Rajesh Khanal, Kathmandu

Nov 20, 2018-

Even as the ministries are struggling to expedite development works, they have asked the Finance Ministry to provide an additional Rs54 billion under non-budgetary headings.  

According to the ministry, only eight percent of the allocated capital budget was spent in the first four months of the current fiscal year. Management of non-budgetary demands has always been a major challenge for the Finance Ministry. Officials say they have a long list of non-budgetary demands from key departments that include the Physical Infrastructure and Transport, Energy, Agriculture, Home Affairs, and Federal Affairs ministries.

Citing excess spending on construction of the Bardibas-Nijgadh segment of East-West Highway, the Physical Infrastructure Ministry has asked for additional Rs6.62 billion. It has demanded Rs4 billion extra for the construction of the Mid-Hill Highway and Rs2 billion for the Postal Highway.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development has sought an additional Rs12.48 billion for special agriculture development programme.

Energy Ministry has requested an additional Rs7.8 billion for irrigation projects while the Ministry of Urban Development has been pressing for Rs6.5 billion more.

Finance Ministry data show that non-budgetary demands come from the ministries struggling to spend funds allocated to them in the fiscal budget. For example, the Energy Ministry has spent only 13.69 percent of its budget in the first four months. The Physical Infrastructure Ministry has spent 16 percent on road networks and 11 percent on railway development.

The Agriculture Ministry has spent 14 percent while Federal Affairs Ministry spent 19.75 percent.

Finance Secretary Rajan Khanal highlighted this anomaly to the Parliamentary Finance Committee during its meeting on Monday.

“The ministries are asking for billions of rupees for new programmes when programmes, for which budget has been allocated, are pending implementation,” said Khanal.

During the meeting, Khanal told the concerned ministries to spend allocated budget first, before demanding additional money.

Despite various measures taken to expedite state spending for development projects, including fixed date for budget presentation, the perennial problem of slow spending persists. Admitting government agencies could not spend significant amount in the first quadrimester, Khanal said there is an urgent need to redefine capital expenditure, as many sub-headings under recurring expense and financial transfer were also part of development budget. The government has allocated Rs313.99 billion for development projects for the fiscal year 2018-19.

Starting this fiscal year, the government has launched the ‘Line Ministries Budgetary Information System’ that allows the ministries to take prompt decisions for the priority development activities on their own.

According the Finance Ministry, the concerned ministries could spend the required amount from the allocated capital expenditure for such projects.

The government has also delegated authority to local governments to run multiyear projects.

Khanal attributed absence of the strong bureaucratic structures at the local bodies for the slow spending of the development budget.

During the meeting on Monday, lawmakers criticised Finance Ministry saying it has failed to make clear demarcation of the capital expenses.

NCP lawmaker Surendra Pandey said, “Just as a date has been set to present the budget, similarly a date should be set for delegating authority for budget expenditure.”

Published: 20-11-2018 07:13

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