Grant: Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay, at the Meet-the-Press yesterday, defended the Gewog Development Grant (GDG), saying that the main objective of providing Nu 2 million (M) outside the regular annual budget to every gewog is to achieve decentralisation.

The Royal Audit Authority (RAA) found that most activities executed under GDG in the financial years 2013-14 and 2014-15 were of no economic value to the locality.

The Prime Minister said the government will study the RAA’s findings and recommendations on the issue.

“All the objectives may not have been achieved, but the main objective of introducing GDG in 2013 is to achieve decentralisation,” he said. And reports, including that of the RAA, he said, have revealed that the money has benefited the community.

Without the power to use money and approve projects within their jurisdiction, the Prime Minister said decentralisation cannot be achieved. “The allocation of GDG is to give real power to the local government,” he said.

Creating economic opportunities in villages through decentralisation, the Prime Minister said would help mitigate the problem of rural-urban migration. “It’s the local government that understands the people’s problems,” he said.

The RAA’s performance audit report 2015 also highlighted the poor quality of works implemented under GDG. Due to lack of proper planning, coordination and monitoring the audit report noted that some of the infrastructures built under GDG were either not usable or incomplete.

The Prime Minister responded that the capacity of the local governments should be improved, if required, for proper implementation of the works.

He also informed that the government is planning to devolve powers related to  human resource development (HRD) to local governments in consultation with the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC). He said the allocation of Nu 7M annually for every dzongkhag was also in line with the decentralisation principle.

The performance audit report on GDG states that a sizeable amount of public resources was spent on activities having no long-term impact. The RAA has recommended the government review the existing GDG system and to align activities executed through GDG with that of long-term national goals.

The audit recommends the addition of provisions in the GDG guidelines that not only promotes decentralisation but also fosters local economic growth, generates employment and enhances income opportunities for the rural communities.

In absence of such provisions, the RAA found that gewog administration and gewog tshogde members had allocated budget for activities with no long-term impact.

For instance, Nu 48 million (M) was spent on activities like renovation or construction of lhakhangs, schools, BHUs, among others, which were under the direct control and financial responsibility of the dzongkhag administration.

This deprived the people of their share of funds to be spent on chiwog development.

In the last two fiscal years, more than 915 activities involving Nu 312M from the grant were spent on religious and guest house related activities, entertainment, and awareness programmes.

MB Subba