(Editorial, Kathmandu Post daily)

The budget is scheduled to be presented on Tuesday, and various political and social groups are pressuring the Finance Ministry to ensure that the budget caters to their demands. As during each year, parliamentarians are demanding that the ministry raise the amount allocated to each electoral constituency through the Constituency Development Programme (CDP) from Rs 10 million to Rs 50 million. Of course, this is a key interest of parliamentarians, as this money will be directly channelled through them. The Finance Ministry initially balked at the massive increase that is being demanded, but it seems to have agreed to allocate Rs. 15 million per constituency—which is a substantial increase from previous years.

Funds provided to constituencies through parliamentarians are not in themselves a bad thing. After all, parliamentarians are elected representatives and they often have a better sense of their constituents’ need than bureaucrats or other local leaders. They are often under great pressure from the locals that they represent to bring development to their areas. And doubtless, many lawmakers have made decent use of money allocated through the CDP. However, it is time to conduct a thorough survey of how the money allocated through the CDP has been spent over the years. Has it been spent efficiently and equitably? Or has it been squandered, with parliamentarians distributing funds only to their own loyalists and their pet projects? Ideally, such studies would be used to determine how much to allocate through the CDP. Unfortunately, it does not seem like the government has conducted any such study, or if it has, it does not appear that this has had an influence on government policy. The demands by parliamentarians alone seem to have guided the policy.

It is possible to gain some insights into how the CDP is functioning through a study conducted by freedom1 Forum, an NGO. The study closely analyses expenditure patterns in a range of constituencies, and its findings are damning. It finds that parliamentarians have often flouted regulations in the disbursal of funds. For example, despite requirements, they have not consulted with DDCs or VDCs in the allocation of resources. Rather, they have distributed money to institutions that are directly affiliated to their political parties. Further, in many cases it was found that the money was spent on many small projects instead of a few large ones. This has meant that the funds spent through the CDP have not been able to bring about any substantive development. The government needs to ensure that the funds provided through the CDP are spent in a better way this year. The regulations have to be more tightly enforced, and parliamentarians have to be held more accountable for the way in which they spend the money provided to them.

(Source: The Kathmandu Post, 13 July 2015)