KATHMANDU, AUGUST 21
Like in the previous years, the home minister and secretary have been found to have milked the state treasury under the heading of peace and security expenditure in the fiscal 2019- 20 as well.
The 58th annual report in the fiscal 2019-20 of the Office of the Auditor General submitted to President Bidhya Devi Bhandari yesterday revealed this. As per the 26 May 1993 decision of the Council of Ministers, a provision allows the home minister and secretary to spend up to Rs 50,000 and Rs 20,000 respectively at one time on personal fronts to maintain peace and security through mobilisation of undercover agents or spies. Taking advantage of this provision and their discretionary power, then home minister released and spent around Rs 14.8 million collectively in the fiscal 2019-20.
Of the Rs 14.8 million, the home minister and secretary withdrew Rs 7.2 million and 7.6 million respectively from the state treasury to maintain peace and security. The corresponding figures in the fiscals 2017-18 and 2018-19 were Rs 15.6 million and 14.5 million respectively.
Ram Bahadur Thapa served as home minister from 26 February 2018 to 20 May 2021 followed by Balkrishna Khand, while Prem Kumar Rai was secretary from 9 April 2018 to 3 February 2020 followed by Maheshwor Neupane till the end of the fiscal 2020-21.
If the report is anything to go by, the home secretary appears to be more extravagant than his minister. The annual report of the OAG shows an unusually increasing trend of expenditure with each passing year despite a marginal decline in the fiscal 2018-19. "The justification 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 one time, it is silent on how many times the amount may be released in a week or a month or a year," reads the report.
In its report, the OAG has renewed its call on Nepal government to review this provision and prescribe weekly, monthly and annual limit of the amount that may be released and spent by the home minister and home secretary to maintain peace and security. "Despite repeated calls to systematise the expenditures to maintain peace and security through mobilisation of undercover agents or spies, there has been no improvement.
Purposeful management of such expenditures is a must," warned the report.
In the previous fiscals too, the OAG had recommended that the government revise this provision through a Cabinet decision.
A version of this article appears in the print on August 22 2021, of The Himalayan Times.