NA: It appears that the Gewog Development Grant (GDG) the government initiated is under the scanner of the Royal Audit Authority (RAA), going by the deliberation on the budget and appropriation bill in the National Assembly yesterday.

Highlighting a few issues, the Bartsham-Shongphu representative, Wangdi Norbu said issues on the GDG need to be resolved in order to get a clear direction for smooth execution of the Dzongkhag Development Grant (DDG).

To further strengthen the decentralisation process, the government has proposed for DDG in the budget report. The government will allocate Nu 7 million (M) each to the dzongkhags,  in addition to the gewog development grant.

While DDG and GDG are both aimed at decentralisation or wangtse chirphel, Wangdi Norbu said the procedures and guidelines must be strong.

Pointing towards the RAA finding, he however said GDG was a “zero sum game.”

He added that the government has told them that the GDG was an additional fund outside the budget. “But the audit report indicated that usual budget for the gewogs has been slashed,” he said.

If the GDG is separate from the annual budget, Wangdi Norbu said no additional budget has been proposed on the 11th Plan. “If it is additional on the 11th Plan budget approved by Parliament, where did the Nu 2M GDG come from?” he said.

“People consider the GDG as an additional fund and audit report points that the GDG is part of total Planned budget,” he said.

The audit findings, he said had also raised concerns on GDG not being considerate of the size and population of a gewog. Should the GDG be divided among individual populaces, he said the difference is huge.

He further pointed out that people in gewogs had no knowledge of the GDG, including the local leaders. This was also one of the RAA findings, according to the Bartsham-Shongphu representative.

The government was given until July 15 to submit an accountability statement to the RAA.

The finance minister denied that budget from gewogs has been slashed to finance the GDG.

He cited an example of Chokhor gewog in Bumthang where Nu 58M was allocated for the entire 11th Plan. In the fiscal year 2016-17, he said Nu 18M or 31 percent of the planned budget is being allotted which is the ceiling. With an addition of the Nu 2M GDG, the gewog would be getting 35 percent of the planned budget.

He provided another example of Chuzergang gewog to prove that GDG was additional budget that extends beyond the permissible ceiling.

Some members also said that an equal amount of fund, regardless of the need, population and size was not fair. For instance, a chiwog may have basic infrastructures already in place and may not require the fund. But because it is mandatory to use the GDG fund people may spend in areas, which are not beneficial to the community. “This is where controversies start,”  a member said.

Some members also said giving financial authority does not ensure wangtse chirphel.

The education minister however said people complained that decentralisation only materialised in terms of responsibility. “Initiatives like the GDG and now the DDG is an example of decentralisation, not only in terms of responsibility but also in terms of financial authority,”he said.

Meanwhile the deliberation on the budget will continue today with a decision on the recommendation of the finance committee. The deliberation will then continue with the tax measures proposed as the money bill.

Tshering Dorji