Nepal | August 12, 2020

‘Home minister, officials misusing state fund’

Himalayan News Service
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The minister and high level officials at the Ministry of Home Affairs have been misusing state fund on the pretext of maintaining law and order, states the 57th annual report (fiscal 2019-20) of the Office of the Auditor General submitted to President Bidhya Devi Bhandari this week.

As per the 26 May 1993 decision of the council of ministers, there is a provision which allows the home minister and secretary to spend up to Rs 50,000 and Rs 20,000, respectively at one time for the purpose of maintaining law and order. Taking advantage of the provision and their discretionary power, Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa and former home secretary Prem Kumar Rai released and spent around Rs 7.2 million while the home secretary withdrew Rs 7.3 million from the state coffers in 2019-20.

Former home secretary appeared to be more extravagant than the minister. Total amount of Rs 5.9 million was spent in 2016-17, Rs 6.1 million in 2017-18 and Rs 7.6 million in 2018-19 with approval from the home minister. The home secretary spent around Rs 2.4 million in 2016-17, Rs 5.3 million in 2017-18 and Rs 7.9 million in 2018-19 for peace and security purposes.

The audit report of the OAG shows an unusually increasing trend of expenditure with each passing year.

“Reason for increased expenditure on the part of the home minister and secretary is unclear. Though the existing provision has set the limit at Rs 50,000 and Rs 20,000, that may be released and spent by the minister and secretary at a time, it is silent on how many times the amount may be released in a month or a year,” reads the report.

The OAG in its report has renewed its call to the government to review the provision and prescribe weekly, monthly and annual limit of the amount that may be released and spent by the home minister and home secretary for ‘peace and security’. Last year too, the OAG had recommended that the government revise the provision.

The report also indicated irregularities of the MoHA in distribution of amount to various persons as medical expenses and financial relief.

The MoHA provided Rs 90.8 to 174 persons, ranging from Rs 50,000 to Rs 3 million each, under the head ‘medical expenses’ in 2019-20. Similarly, Rs 3.37 million was distributed among various persons and their families injured or killed in various incidents and Rs 29.1 million to different organisations as grant.

“Existing provision allows distribution of no more than Rs 700,000 each, to individuals, who have made significant contributions to the nation and public life, as medical expenses. Contrary to this provision and prescribed limit, the MoHA was found to have doled out up to Rs 3 million to individuals. In some cases, ‘medical expenses’ were released without requiring the concerned persons to submit necessary documents, doctor’s prescription and other recommendations,” reads the report. The amount should have been disbursed to the beneficiaries concerned only after verification of medical treatment and other necessary documents.

The OAG has recommended that the government control embezzlement of the state fund under the guise of medical expenses. The government has been urged to develop clear guidelines for transparency and proper utilisation of the state fund.

A version of this article appears in e-paper on July 19, 2020, of The Himalayan Times.

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