Kathmandu, April 14

Former finance minister Surendra Prasad Pandey said employees’ tendency to delay the process of settling bills was a major reason behind cumulative arrears, reckless spending and financial irregularities in government offices.

The Office of the Auditor General, in its annual report, said government offices, local administration and constitutional bodies had recklessly spent Rs 120 billion in the previous fiscal, out of the total audited amount worth Rs 2,145 billion. The OAG said cumulative arrears had gone up to Rs 500.08 billion till fiscal 2016-17.

“Government employees are keen to run projects but are not keen to settle bills,” he said, adding that the government ought to stall promotion of employees who did not settle bills or violated the governance process. “If the government makes rules blocking promotion of erring employees and stops their transfer to good places, that would help reduce arrears in government offices,” Pandey said. He added that cashless transaction in government offices would prevent manipulation of procurement rules for personal benefit. Pandey said rules had to be changed to give each employee a certain amount in a year to buy stationery rather than providing these items round the year.

Former vice-chair of National Planning Commission Swarnim Wagle said,“Since governance problems can’t be fixed overnight, the concerned agencies must reform gradually.”

Wagle said political leaders must strictly enforce compliance with governance rules. He said  the concerned agencies should start their drive by fixing problems in places where arrears are in the billions rather than places where arrears are in the thousands. He said ambiguity in rules must be removed to prevent employees taking advantage of loopholes. He also spoke of incentives to employees to encourage compliance with governance rules.

He said acts that governed civil servants employed in federal, provincial and local levels must be reviewed and reformed to make employees accountable.

Auditor General Tanka Mani Sharma blamed poor implementation of procurement and governance rules and regulations for ever increasing arrears and irregularities in government offices.

He said making employees accountable would eliminate fiscal indiscipline. “There are a number of reasons for  accumulation of arrears such as lack of capacity to resist pressure and  political instability,” he said, “We do not need a new law. We only need to implement the current laws.” Sharma said the OAG’s new report did not include non-economic activities of government offices.

He said external influence was a serious issue related to financial indiscipline. “Employees should either defend their actions or accept our report and implement our recommendations; but they neither defend their actions nor implement our recommendations,” Sharma said, adding that the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority had filed some corruption cases against some high profile people on the basis of the OAG report.