| May 23, 2019

Political leaders lobbying to include petty projects in central programs

KATHMANDU, March 10: Political leaders, particularly parliamentarians, have started piling pressure on ministries to put petty projects of their respective areas in the list of priority projects without holding needful consultation at the local level.

Such acts will hinder the reforms initiated by National Planning Commission (NPC). NPC has said that it won’t publish ‘Part Two Book’ in the coming fiscal year to focus only on priority projects. It has decided to delegate the authority of selecting and implementing small-scale projects and programs to the concerned district development committees (DDCs).

Gopinath Mainali, joint secretary of National Planning Commission, told Republica that reform initiatives taken by the apex planning body will become useless if petty projects are included in the list of P1 projects as demanded by political leaders.
Mainali, who looks after infrastructure projects at NPC, has already received request to include more than 200 small road projects into the list of P1 projects. Many leaders have sought budget for small projects like roads, bridges, irrigation, and drinking water projects, from central level even though NPC has already decided that central authority will focus on only large-scale projects.

NPC, in December last year, gave a budget ceiling of Rs 79.66 billion -- 7.6 percent higher than the allocation of 2014/15 -- to all 75 districts. Village development committees (VDCs) and municipalities and have to select local projects on their own and get them approved from DDCs, ending the practice of selecting local projects from Singha Durbar -- country’s administrative center.

“Instead of going to their village and select projects, political leaders are trying to include petty projects in the budget allocated by the ministries and departments,” NPC officials say.

NPC has already issued guidelines to DDCs on selecting the projects by holding discussions and setting priorities. It has formed a panel led by its member Chandra Mani Adhikari to sort out any problems arising in setting priorities.
“We have been organizing workshops in different districts to help local authorities in selection and implementation of the project,” Adhikari told Republica.

During regional workshops held in each development region last month, NPC officials found that division offices of Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport, Ministry of Urban Development and Ministry of Irrigation were not allowing local authorities to select projects on their own, stating that they do not have such line agencies in the districts.

Adhikari said NPC has already dispatched a guideline to all districts on how to identify the projects and set priorities. The guideline clearly states only the large-scale projects and projects of national importance will be included in the budget.
Talking to Republica, Director General of Department of Irrigation Madhav Belbase said their working modality is different as they do not have line agency in each district. “We select projects through a participatory approach of beneficiaries and they are clearly defined compared to other projects like road and bridges,” he added.

In the regional workshop, officials of local bodies complained to NPC officials that they were asked to include additional projects from ‘Part Two Book’ but were given additional funds.

Adhikari said local bodies have to be selective and should not have more than three projects in each sector to deliver better results. “Rather than the distributing approach taken over the past years, we should focus on effective implementation and result oriented development,” he added.