The issue of users’ committees has become a topic of discussion once again after it was raised in the 58th report of the Auditor General. The search for transparency and accountability of the expenditure incurred by the Users’ Committee has not only started now, but even before this, questions have been raised about the expenditure incurred by the Users’ Committee.

Questions were being raised at various levels saying that there was no transparency and accountability in the uninterrupted spending of citizens’ tax money through the Users’ Committee. Recently, it was mentioned in the 58th report of the Auditor General and after the Finance Minister proposed to increase the development expenditure through the Users’ Committee in the budget, it started to be discussed more.

The debate has started once again after the contractor businessmen started raising their voice for small works up to Rs 50 million should be given to the contractor businessmen at the local level.

According to the contractor businessmen, giving less than 50 million small construction works at the local level reduces competition and eliminates the practice of bidding at low rates. The contractor is also compelled to do quality and timely work because if they don’t do it in time, they will be despised by their friends in society.

However, many questions have been raised about the quality, transparency, and accountability of such construction work done through the Users’ Committee. There was a perversion of the Users’Committee taking the work which could not be done by them, taking up and awarding in contract further, not keeping all the accounts properly, not making any other changes& corrections.

Similarly, there is no public participation in the work of the users’ committee. Therefore, as the debate is getting longer, conflict has arose between the ministry and the local levels after the Ministry of Federal Affairs and General Administration has written to the local level not to use the Users’ Committee for work, which is a source of capital expenditure at the local level.

After receiving the letter from the Ministry, the Local level affiliates National Association of Rural Municipality of Nepal (NARMIN) and Municipal Association of Nepal (MuAN) have objected via press release. They have demanded withdrawal of the circular and allow it to function as usual. The controversy arose when the ministry started implementing the recommendations of the 58th Annual Report of the Auditor General of Nepal at a time when the local levels were ready to do the work of the current year by forming a users’ committee as usual.

At the same time, the conflict is likely to escalate the Local level affiliatesNational Association of Rural Municipality of Nepal (NARMIN), Municipal Association of Nepal (MuAN), and the Ministry. Since both associations are of the opinion that the circular is contrary to the existing law, the circular has halted the development work at the local levels and a negative message is spread at the local levels. Associations are not satisfied with the recommendations on the report of the Office of Auditor General and the circular issued by the Ministry to implement the same recommendations on the basis of some wrong practices.

However, if the misuse of the citizen’s tax is not stopped and the users’ committee is allowed to spend in the status quo, then the confidence of the citizen in federalism will be lost. Even so, the anti-federalism elements are trying to discredit and make federalism a failure under various pretexts.

Therefore, if the users’ committee is allowed to function, there is no alternative but to make the work and operations of the users’ committee systematic, transparent, and accountable.

One way to do that is to pass and implement the regulations on users’ committees that have reached the offices of the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers as soon as possible. In addition, it is necessary to make clear provisions about the Users’ Committee in the Public Procurement Act and Rules because the Users’ committee is not a bad concept in itself. However, many of its works in Nepal have been called into question, which is why the Ministry of Urban Development has decided not to allow the Users’ Committee to work under them until arranged otherwise.

Source: Karobar Daily on 10.12.2021