We have often been unable to spend much of foreign aid, and much of what we have spent we have not properly utilised. Take the block grants that the education ministry under the Education for All programme, supported by foreign donors, provides to public schools. According to a study conducted by CERID, a government research centre, in Kavre, Kaski and Chitwan, on the disbursement of block grants, the grant money has been sent ten months behind schedule, and most of the schools have been unable to utilise it because of their lack of awareness about the requirements of the School Grants Operation Guidelines. Under this scheme, resources are made available to the schools, allowing the management committees to make decisions regarding non-salary recurrent expenses.
This has badly affected the quality of education, already low, in those public schools, and there is no reason to believe that things might be all right in the rest of the public schools in the country. In addition, this also puts unnecessary financial burdens on the poor parents, as the schools charge admission fees, monthly fees and exam fees, even if primary education is officially free. To make matters worse, the long gap between the governmentâ€™s fiscal year and the school calendar means that the crucial money is not available when it is most needed, and even when it arrives, it is often too late. Besides, the grants for textbook expenditure (for example, during 2004-05) provided on the basis of the prices of a year earlier fall short of the need because of the rise in the price of textbooks. In a number of the schools surveyed, the funds remain unused because the school management committees have not met.
According to education secretary Chuman Singh Basnet, if any of the offices under the ministry is responsible for the delay in releasing the money, the ministry would look into it. He says a joint secretary has been entrusted with the task of attending to such complaints. There is no dearth of such units in government, but generally they have not delivered. In fact, such arrangements have often served as instruments of evading issues. Actions are seldom taken in government for dereliction of duty. This, along with the assurance of total job security, has generally made the government employees indifferent to their duty even though their neglect may cause great inconvenience or loss to the public, who pick up their salary tab. To take care of the problems associated with the block grants and other issues, people in authority should first be made accountable.