June 11: The budget allocated under Member of Parliament (MP)’s discretion for the 'Local Infrastructure Development Partnership Programme' has been under-spent in the current fiscal year.
Former Finance Minister Dr Yuvaraj Khatiwada had allocated a budget of Rs 6.60 billion for the programme. According to Financial Comptroller General’s Office (FCGO), out of the total allocated budget for the programme, only Rs 967.7 million has been spent as of mid-April.
Under this programme, a committee headed by a directly-elected parliamentarian in the House of Representatives can select the programme and spend the budget. According to government officials, the failure to spend the budget allocated for this programme is mainly due to the dissolution of parliament and the coronavirus pandemic. The government had twice dissolved parliament and called elections twice this year.
“Along with the pandemic, dissolution of the parliament is the main reason,” said Gyanendra Poudel, joint comptroller and auditor general. According to FCGO, at least 60 percent of the budget allocated under this heading had been spent during the corresponding period of previous years, but only 14.49 percent of the allocated budget has been spent this year.
Furthermore, new programmes have not been selected and implemented this year, while the spent budget is also found in the programmes run in previous years.
About Rs 10 billion allocated in the budget of FY 2076/77 for the directly-elected federal parliamentarians to spend Rs 60 million in each election constituency was downzised to Rs 40 million per constituency in the current fiscal year and Rs 6.60 billion was allocated for the purpose.
The government had pressurised the parliamentarians this year to spend in the health sector under this program by amending the operating procedure. This controversial programme was started in 2051 BS in the name of Parliamentary Development Fund by giving Rs 250,000 per MP. Since then, every finance minister has been increasing the amount and changing its name. As the country has adopted a federal system, this programme has been opposed as the amount was used in unproductive sectors rather than infrastructure development.
The government, which dissolved the House of Representatives, has scrapped the local infrastructure development partnership programme through the upcoming budget. Announcing the budget for the fiscal year 2078/79 on May 29, Finance Minister Bishnu Poudel had announced the cancellation of the programme. Recently, when the federal government continued such programmes, the provincial government also started replicating it.