Maintenance of farm road and lhakhangs priority of people

Fund: Gewog officials in Bumthang are putting the brakes on funding cultural and religious activities from the gewog development grant (GDG) following a directive from the government to channel the fund to income generating activities in 2014.

A review of 2013 GDG spending pattern by the National Council’s good governance committee found 80 percent of the grant funding non-economic activities such as farm roads, building infrastructures and for religious and cultural activities.

The spending, the committee stated was found in contravention to the GDG implementation guidelines that states the fund should be utilized in economic and income and employment generating activities. Following the finding, the government directed all 205 gewogs to instruct people to strictly abide by the GDG implementation guidelines while scheming plans.

Accordingly, the gewogs reduced the funds to religious and cultural activities. Chumey divided its GDG of 2014 and 2015 among agriculture, education and religious and cultural sectors.

“Tshogpas and villagers were reminded in every zomdu to use the grant in economic activities as per the guidelines as is the directives from the government,” Chumey gewog administrative officer, (GAO) Namgyel Tshering said.

In agriculture, around five farm roads in Umsang, Zhicha Changjab and Phubsigang were constructed, extended or improved. To house both school activities and village meetings, a multi-purpose hall was constructed in Zungey community primary school.

“Similarly another meeting hall worth Nu 0.7 million will be constructed in Gyetsa as community meeting hall,” Namgyel Tshering said. In Ura, breeding bulls and electric fence were bought from the grant. “Five bulls are already here while more will be bought again from the grant,” Ura GAO, Leki Phuntsho said.

In Tang except for construction of toilet for Threl lhakhang, the grant was channeled to improve farm roads in Choetoe and Nimalung and to construct irrigation channels in Pralang and Jemzhong among others. Rural water supplies were also rehabilitated in Kizom and Tandingang.

Yet, despite the directive to spend the fund in activities resulting in income and employment generation, a portion is still used in funding non-economic activities such as farm roads, religious and cultural activities and building infrastructures. The review by the good governance committee slammed the excessive use of fund in farm roads as non-economic activity since it neither generated income nor employment.

In Ura except for buying breeding bull and electric fence, the fund was still used for the construction of lama’s residences in Shingkhar, Pangkhar and Shingnyer. Chumey and Tang used most of their grant for farm roads.

For instance, except for rural water rehabilitation and irrigation channel, over 19 activities in Tang were either farm road construction or improvement works. Gewog officials said the priority of activities to be funded by the grant came from the people whether they were income-generating activity or not. “People use the grant to fund the activities that were not budgeted and incorporated in the 11th Plan,” Leki Phuntsho said, adding the community isn’t spending in economic activities because adequate budget is already allocated in the Plan.

Moreover, the Gewog Tshogde, which endorses the proposals from chiwogs, has no authority to drop the proposed plans from the communities. “Unless there are no funds available, the tshogde cannot drop the proposed activities whether it is uneconomic or economic,” Tang GAO, Sonam Dhendup said.

Tempa Wangdi, Bumthang