| November 23, 2017

Empty VDC secretary posts in quake districts slow grant pay outs

KATHMANDU, June 1: The Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development has failed to mobilize civil servants as VDC secretaries in the 11 districts worst hit by earthquake last year, even as the process of distributing grants for rebuilding the collapsed houses has begun.

As many as 88 VDCs in the 11 earthquake-hit districts still do not have their secretaries.
In mid-April, with the aim of attracting civil servants to postings as VDC secretaries, the government decided to provide them an incentive of up to 50 percent of their monthly salaries. But there were no takers.

In an example of the unwillingness of civil servants to work as VDC secretaries, the ministry last week deputed a group of 42 civil servants to the 11 earthquake-hit districts as VDC secretaries. But they refused to go to the districts, citing security concerns, exceedingly heavy workload and unwarranted political interference, among other things. As many as 46 posts of VDC secretary have been lying vacant for months now.

"Civil servants are not willing to work as VDC secretaries despite the incentives scheme. It has really been tough filling the vacant posts," said spokesperson of the ministry Purna Chandra Bhattarai.

The National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) has already made public the names of quake victim families that are eligible for the grant amounts of Rs 200,000, but it has not been able to start signing the grant agreements with quake victims in more than 200 VDCs. The agreements are needed for disbursing the first installment of the grant amount. The 11 quake-affected districts have over 500 VDCs.

VDC secretaries currently working in the districts have been compelled to oversee the administrative work of VDCs where the secretaries are missing. One VDC secretary has been overseeing more than two VDCs. This additional workload has prevented them from beginning the process of signing the grant agreements in their own VDCs, according to the VDC Secretaries Welfare Association, an umbrella body of VDC secreatries across the coutnry.

As a result, in the span of almost two months since the start of the entire process, NRA has been able to sign grant agreements with just 36,300 quake victim families out of the total of 300,000 families that are eligible for the assistance.

Damodhar Rijal, chairman of the VDC Secretaries Welfare Association, said that reconstruction and rehabilitation will not gather momentum until and unless the government fills the vacant posts.

"And the vacant posts are not going to be filled unless the government provides sufficient facilities and ensures proper security. Likewise, the incentive scheme has not been implemented. This is also a major reason why officials are not interested in working as VDC secretaries," said Rijal, himself a VDC secretary.

He said that VDC secretaries in the quake districts have been compelled to put up with poor working conditions after the VDC offices collapsed in the earthquake. "There is no proper office space nor proper facilities and assistance in the quake-affected districts. They have been forced to do everything on their own," he added.