NC ex­presses sup­port, con­cerns for block grant to LG

Bhutan Times - - Home - Lhakpa Tsh­er­ing

The mem­bers of the Na­tional Coun­cil (NC) ex­pressed their sup­port for the block grant to the Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment (LG), but some mem­bers are con­cerned on staffing and qual­ity of bud­get man­age­ment at the gewog level.

The Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment (MP) at­trib­uted weak lead­er­ship, ab­sence of in­for­ma­tion and trans­parency on rules and pro­ce­dures, and poor or lack of ro­bust ac­count­abil­ity mech­a­nism in place, as sig­nif­i­cant fac­tors in in­creas­ing cor­rup­tion in the coun­try.

That was what the mem­bers en­quired the gov­ern­ment that the block grant needed to be more ex­plicit on how it would be uti­lized, in the on­go­ing ses­sion of the Par­lia­ment af­ter the in­tro­duc­tion of the 12th FYP by fi­nance min­is­ter Nam­gay Tsh­er­ing on 9 Jan­uary.

The cap­i­tal grants al­lo­ca­tion to the LGs in the 12th FYP has in­creased by 100 per­cent to Nu 50 bil­lion from Nu 25 bil­lion in the 11th FYP. The funds would be dis­bursed as block grant to meet the in­creas­ing de­mand of the pub­lic ser­vices from the LG.

While the LG is al­lo­cated with 50 per­cent of the cap­i­tal bud­get for the first time, the top rec­om­men­da­tion of the NC’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives was for the gov­ern­ment to de­velop and man­age a bud­get rules and reg­u­la­tions of the solid grant dis­tri­bu­tion.

Trongsa MP Tashi Sam­drup rec­om­mended that ac­count­abil­ity mech­a­nism in place in­clud­ing hu­man re­source, rules and pro­ce­dures to uti­lize a suc­cess­ful bud­get is im­por­tant. “The Dzongkhag may have ca­pac­ity to ad­min­is­ter and ex­e­cute the grant,” he sub­mit­ted adding the ini­tia­tive for hu­man re­sources need at the gewogs to ad­min­is­ter and mon­i­tor devel­op­ment ac­tiv­i­ties.

The LG is the near­est and clos­est to the peo­ple in fur­ther­ing the process of de­cen­tral­iza­tion but presents cor­rup­tion risks.

Ac­cord­ing to Anti Cor­rup­tion Com­mis­sion (ACC) re­port, Paro MP Ugyen Tsh­er­ing sub­mit­ted that the lo­cal gov­ern­ment is most vul­ner­a­ble to cor­rup­tion be­cause of the lack of hu­man re­source ca­pac­i­ties. “The LG con­tin­ues to be most cor­rupt agency in the coun­try,” he sub­mit­ted adding it would still con­tinue to be most cor­rupt agency if hu­man re­source is not ad­dressed.

Like­wise, Haa MP Ugyen Nam­gay also rec­om­mended that ac­count­abil­ity and in­tegrity must be put at the heart of LG sys­tems to re­duce the risks of cor­rup­tion. “Despite hav­ing no ac­coun­tant and en­gi­neer at the gewog level, some gewogs even do not have the gewog ad­min­is­tra­tor,” He sub­mit­ted. “It’s im­por­tant for the gov­ern­ment to en­sure ef­fi­cient hu­man re­sources man­age­ment with qual­i­fi­ca­tions and ex­pe­ri­ences.”

Re­spond­ing to the coun­cil’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives, fi­nance min­is­ter in­formed the House that the gov­ern­ment would de­velop fi­nan­cial rules and reg­u­la­tions, and im­ple­men­ta­tion guide­lines. “The Gross Na­tional Hap­pi­ness Com­mis­sion Sec­re­tariat has reg­u­la­tions on plan­ning con­sul­ta­tion,” he sub­mit­ted. “We will pre­pare for the bud­get al­lo­ca­tion and re­sources plan­ning in­clud­ing hu­man re­source devel­op­ment.”

Ac­cord­ing to the fi­nance min­ster, the block grant would not be im­ple­mented in the cur­rent fis­cal year but it would com­mence from the next fis­cal year 2019-2020. “We will de­velop the ca­pac­ity of LG lead­ers and en­sure there are no mal­prac­tices in block grant,” he sub­mit­ted.

Mean­while, the mem­bers also sub­mit­ted that the gewog works are ex­e­cuted by dzongkhag en­gi­neer and one ac­coun­tant tak­ing care of two gewogs, while some gewogs do not have Gewog Ad­min­is­tra­tive Of­fi­cer, re­sult­ing in dif­fi­culty with switch­ing to the devel­op­ment ac­tiv­i­ties and hin­der the progress.

With the im­pres­sive devel­op­ment ac­tiv­i­ties at the grass­roots level, Gasa MP Dorji Khandu rec­om­mended the gov­ern­ment to re­cruit an ac­coun­tant and one en­gi­neer to each gewog. Ad­di­tion­ally, he sub­mit­ted it would also help to ad­dress rais­ing un­em­ploy­ment is­sues in the coun­try.

Cit­ing an ex­am­ple of Laya and Lu­nana Gewog in Gasa, he sub­mit­ted that of­fi­cially, the places are 18 days’ walk to Lu­nana from Laya and come back. “Af­ter walk­ing sev­eral days, the em­ploy­ees will have lim­ited work­ing days at the gewog but would cover huge travel ex­penses,” he sub­mit­ted.

To de­ploy an ac­coun­tant and one en­gi­neer in all the gewog, fi­nance min­is­ter re­futed that it is not ap­pli­ca­ble. “Many of the gewogs are lo­cated close to each other and one ac­coun­tant for two gewog is enough,” he sub­mit­ted. “We need to man­age the re­sources ef­fec­tively and ef­fi­ciently where it is re­quired and min­i­mize in the need­less ar­eas.”

How­ever, the fi­nance min­is­ter Nam­gay Tsh­er­ing in­formed the House that the gov­ern­ment would look into the so­lu­tions of re­cruit­ing an ac­coun­tant and one en­gi­neer base on needs at the lo­cal level.

The Con­sti­tu­tion gives lo­cal lead­ers sig­nif­i­cant pow­ers to im­ple­ment plans for socio-eco­nomic devel­op­ment. On top of that, man­dated to un­der­take de­cen­tral­iza­tion pol­icy, Gewog Ad­min­is­tra­tions, for­mu­late five-year devel­op­ment plans, run their own bud­get, and raise labour for pub­lic projects.

In this re­gard, fi­nance min­is­ter in­formed that the in­crease in cap­i­tal grant is aimed at strength­en­ing the LG. “We will not be able to strengthen the ca­pac­ity of the gewog level if we fur­ther de­lay to de­cen­tral­ize,” he sub­mit­ted, “We need to de­cen­tral­ize in­clud­ing fi­nan­cial man­age­ment to bring devel­op­ment in the lo­cal ar­eas.”

Fur­ther, he also re­ported that a to­tal grant of Nu 25 bil­lion dis­bursed in the 11th FYP was be­ing fully uti­lized for the new projects and re­ceived an ad­di­tional bud­get of Nu 5.5 bil­lion. “By look­ing at their progress, the gov­ern­ment is con­fi­dent that our lo­cal lead­ers are po­ten­tial in manag­ing fi­nan­cial for devel­op­ment ac­tiv­i­ties,” he sub­mit­ted.

LG is man­dated to con­struc­tion and main­te­nance of the farm roads, ir­ri­gation chan­nels, agri­cul­ture and live­stock, ac­cess to health and ed­u­ca­tion, wa­ter and hy­giene and house­hold in­come among oth­ers.

The ACC re­port re­veals that the LGs are more vul­ner­a­ble to cor­rup­tion be­cause it is at the lo­cal level where cit­i­zens and pub­lic sec­tor in­ter­act most reg­u­larly and di­rectly. When cor­rup­tion oc­curs lo­cally, the im­pact on cit­i­zens’ lives can be the most dam­ag­ing, with the poor­est be­ing hit the hard­est.

Even though cor­rup­tion af­fects ev­ery­one, and the con­sti­tu­tion of King­dom of Bhutan man­dates ev­ery per­son shall have the duty to up­hold jus­tice and to act against cor­rup­tion not many seem to carry out this duty, this is ac­cord­ing to the re­port.

Fi­nance Min­is­ter Namgey Tsh­er­ing: “We will not be able to strengthen the ca­pac­ity of the gewog level if we fur­ther de­lay to de­cen­tral­ize.”

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