Donors suspend school aid over graft claims

KATHMANDU: International donors today suspended millions of dollars in funding for education programmes following allegations of corruption against a government minister.

The move follows reports that Education Minister Ram Chandra Kuswaha is being investigated by a parliamentary committee over undisclosed financial irregularities. Minister Kuswaha denies any wrongdoing, however.

“Our funds have been suspended. We hope the suspension period will be

very short as it is the

children who are at the receiving end,” said Ove Fritz Larsen of the Danish embassy in Kathmandu, which coordinates international donors in the country.

“It has been a very

difficult decision, but we want to wait and see the outcome of the government’s investigations.”

The foreign funds were destined for the school

sector reform plan, a

government programme aimed at reducing poverty in the country by providing schooling for all.

The donors, which

include the World Bank and the UN children’s agency UNICEF, took the decision after meeting finance ministry officials to discuss the corruption allegations, the details of which have not been made public.

Agence France Presse could not immediately reach the Public Accounts Committee — the parliamentary committee conducting the investigation — for comment.

Larsen said the donors were also concerned about a separate investigation

last year that uncovered

financial irregularities

at a printing firm used by the government to produce school text books.

The education ministry, however, said that it

has taken the allegations very seriously.

“The Commission for the Investigation of the Abuse of Authority has written to us about the financial irregularities and asked us to take action,” MoE spokesperson Lekhnath Poudel told AFP.

“It is understandable

for development partners

to be curious and concerned about corruption allegations. We take this very