The government has refused to implement the recommendation of the Royal Audit Authority (RAA) to revise the Gewog Development Grant (GDG) and the existing system of the grant’s allocation.

A performance audit in 2015 found that a majority of activities executed through GDG were more recurrent in nature and without significant contribution to economic development. The RAA had stated that it was important for the government to revise the GDG guidelines to optimise the use of scarce public resources.

Following the RAA’s report, the Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee has recommended the government to revise the guidelines to strengthen the monitoring mechanisms and fix direct accountability for non-compliance of the guidelines by local governments. The committee presented the recommendations to the joint sitting of the parliament yesterday.

Foreign Minister Damcho Dorji said the government felt that in the interest of strengthening decentralisation and empowerment of local governments, the government does not feel the need to intervene or alter the guidelines. “It’s important that local governments have full discretion over GDG,” he said, adding that empowerment of local governments would not be meaningful if they cannot exercise budgetary powers.

According to the current GDG guidelines, each gewog, irrespective of its size, is allocated Nu 2 million annually. The RAA stated that the allocation system does not consider factors like, poverty incidences, population size, level of economic development and geographical coverage.

Finance Minister Namgay Dorji, however, said the current guidelines were adequate and that the government does not feel the need to change the allocation system. “Revision of the guidelines at this stage will do more harm than good,” he said.

Since the grant was started in 2013, lyonpo Damcho Dorji said Nu 1.6 billion has been disbursed under GDG. “The government will continue to provide adequate support to local governments for implementation of GDG,” he said, adding that the grant has benefited the country.

According to him, 45 percent of the total GDG was used for construction of farm roads by gewogs, 20 percent for renovation of lhakhangs and eight percent for drinking water schemes. The rest were used for activities such as construction of meeting halls and irrigation channels.

Lyonpo Damcho Dorji said some lapses did occur when GDG was initially implemented. “But we should move ahead by correcting the mistakes,” he said.

Leader of Opposition Pema Gyamtsho (Phd) said almost all activities implemented through GDG are similar to the activities covered through regular budgets. “Activities implemented through GDG should be innovative,” he said citing the audit findings.

Panbang MP Dorji Wangdi said that deliberating on the committee’s report would not make sense if the government were not willing to take the RAA’s recommendations seriously. “I’m worried with the fact that the government has refused to implement the RAA’s recommendations,” he said.

Drametse-Ngatshang MP Ugyen Wangdi said the government’s refusal to implement the recommendations was a violation of the principle of governance. “It is important to revise the guidelines to ensure that the country’s limited resources are used properly,” he said.

The RAA had issued nine recommendations in 2015 to be implemented by the government, but only one of them has been implemented. The government completed the capacity needs assessment of local government functionaries in the financial year 2015-16 and the department of local governance has put in place an “integrated capacity building plan” with the curriculum and training materials for training of local government functionaries.

Other recommendations include review of funding of farm roads and awareness creation on GDG.

The committee’s chairperson Dophu Dukpa said local governments have not been able to monitor GDG activities properly. He also said that accountability should be fixed for non-compliance to GDG guidelines. “We can fix accountability and monitor implementation if we revise the guidelines,” he said.

Deliberations on the GDG and other audit recommendations will continue today.

MB Subba