Kathmandu, October 16
At a time when the government is struggling to spend the allocated capital budget, ministries are seeking additional Rs 200 billion from the Ministry of Finance (MoF).
“We have been receiving files from the ministries almost every day asking for additional budget,” said Kewal Prasad Bhandari, chief of Budget and Programme Division of the MoF, adding that the ministry, however, has not endorsed a single request.
According to the sources at MoF, the finance ministry has toughened its stance on releasing additional funds to the ministries in line with the direction from the finance minister.
“Finance Minister Gyanendra Bahadur Karki has specifically instructed the concerned divisions under MoF not to release a single paisa, as the capital spending has been extremely unsatisfactory,” said a source seeking anonymity.
As per MoF, Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport (MoPIT) is seeking maximum amount of additional budget — Rs 27.23 billion. MoPIT has said it plans to utilise the additional funds to execute few new projects and for repair and maintenance of the projects that were affected by the floods and landslides of July and August.
According to MoF sources, MoPIT is seeking additional budget also for construction of roads that began last year and which were supposed to be handed over to the local levels.
“But now MoPIT officials are claiming that the local administrations don’t have the technical know-how to handle the projects and that the ministry want to take on the tasks by itself. But something seems amiss in their argument. Perhaps they want to retain their hold on the money.”
MoPIT officials were not available for comment.
Similarly, the Ministry of Irrigation (MoI) has applied for Rs 17 billion and the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation is seeking around Rs eight billion. Both ministries have said they would need the extra budget to reconstruct the projects affected by the floods and landslides.
“We wouldn’t be asking for extra budget if we didn’t need it,” said Sagar Kumar Rai, spokesperson for MoI, adding major works have been affected as the MoF has not released the funds. He refused to divulge the details of the affected projects.
However, the MoF has already clarified that it would only release the budget for repair and maintenance of projects affected by the natural disaster after the National Planning Commission finalises the Post-Disaster Need Assessment (PDNA).
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defence has applied for Rs 24 billion to purchase helicopters for the Nepali Army and the Ministry of Home Affairs is seeking around Rs 15 billion for Nepal Police to purchase helicopters and land in the Capital.
“It is quite a paradox that the ministries seeking additional budget have very little to show in terms of spending for the development works through the budget allocated to them, which is why we are not entertaining their requests,” said Bhandari.
The government has aimed to spend 29 per cent of the total allocated capital budget of the current fiscal year within the first quadrimester, that is, by mid-November. However, according to the data maintained by the Financial Comptroller General Office, the government has spent only Rs 14.30 billion or 4.27 per cent of the total allocated capital budget of Rs 335.17 billion as of today.
“It really is unacceptable for ministries to seek additional budget when they are having a hard time meeting capital expenditure target, especially as the target was set by themselves when they entered their plans and programmes into the Line Ministry Budgetary Information System,” said Finance Secretary Shanta Raj Subedi.
A version of this article appears in print on October 17, 2017 of The Himalayan Times.