The government intends to train local representatives in the wake of budget presentation delays.
Kathmandu: In the last five years, the majority of local governments have failed to meet their annual budget deadlines.
Raj Kumar Sah, the recently elected chairperson of the Dhanauji Rural Municipality in Dhanusa, is well aware that development initiatives in his local unit have suffered in recent years as a result of local officials’ failure to present the yearly budget on time.
“Development projects were delayed as a result of the rural municipality’s failure to award contracts on time due to a late budget presentation,” Sah explained. “I don’t want to see that happen again.” As a result, I will try to guarantee that the budget is presented on time this time, as required by law.”
According to him, Dhanauji had presented the budget for the current fiscal year 2021-22 only in January, after a delay of around six months.
As per the Intergovernmental Fiscal Arrangement Act-2017, municipalities and rural municipalities are required to present their budget for the next fiscal year by Asar 10 (around June 24) every year. The federal government presents its budget on Jestha 15 (around May 29).
“The delay in budget presentation in the past years was due to differences among the wards over sharing of resources,” said Sah. “But this time, my party has a majority in the rural municipality, so I hope there won’t be disputes and delays.”
On a Nepali Congress ticket, Sah was elected. Our party won four ward chairs this time, up from two the previous time. “As a result, it will be easier to make decisions and present the budget through the village assembly,” he stated.
Another local entity in Saptari district that has struggled to deliver its budget is Rajgadh Rural Municipality. It may only present the yearly budget in September, three months later than planned, due to disagreements and delays.
“I want to improve things this time,” said Om Prakash Mandal, the newly elected chairperson of the rural municipality. Mandal is from the UML and his party has won three ward chairs out of the six.
“It is difficult to forge consensus when you have representation of various parties in the executive body and the assembly, but this time it will be easier to pass the budget since my party leads half the wards.”
The delay in budget presentation not only hampered local development efforts, but it also prevented local governments from spending federal funds. Most local government employees had their salaries delayed by many months last year.
Due to the rural municipality’s failure to propose its budget on time, employees of the Tirahut Rural Municipality in the district did not receive their salaries from the start of the fiscal year [mid-July last year] until the Dashain festival in October. Last year, Hemanta Kumar Behadkher, the then-chair of the rural municipality, assured the Post that the budget will be presented following the Dashain holiday.
Federal, provincial, and municipal governments are legally unable to spend unless their budgets have been approved by their respective legislatures—the federal parliament, provincial assemblies, and municipal assemblies, respectively.
Most local governments have failed to produce their budgets on time since the 2017 elections, according to the Ministry of Federal Affairs and General Administration, which is the contact ministry for local governments. Until June 6, four local governments had not indicated whether they had delivered their budgets for the current fiscal year to the Federal Affairs Ministry.
The National Natural Resources and Fiscal Commission has made a timely presentation of the budget by the local governments as one of the conditions for allocating grants from the centre since last year.
On a scale of one to hundred, timely budget presentation and approval will get a local government ten points. The commission recommends the amount of federal fiscal transfer to be provided to a local government based on the score earned by the local government.
Despite these warnings, some local governments have continued to defy the law. In this context, the ministry, which is planning to train the newly elected people’s representatives starting Wednesday, has made budget preparation and presentation the primary agenda.
According to Basanta Adhikari, the ministry’s spokesperson, the people’s representatives will be instructed on how to prepare the budget, which they must provide by Asar 10. (June 24). “We need to train them from the ground up because the bulk of elected local legislators are new faces,” said Adhikari.