MB Subba 

The ongoing lockdown has delayed the first sitting of dzongkhag tshogdu (DT) and gewog tshogde (GT) in the pandemic-hit dzongkhags.

The newly elected local leaders in the affected dzongkhags have been unable to take the oath of office and elect DT chairpersons and vice-chairpersons.

Some gups said that they were waiting for the Covid-19 situation to improve to carry out development activities and endorse new activities in their gewogs.

The Ministry of Finance issued the budget call notification for the fiscal year 2022-23 last December.

The DT and GT endorse the budget proposals for local governments.

One of the most-affected dzongkhags is Wangdue, where most of the gups have not been able to take over office officially, according to gups.

The dzongkhag hasn’t been able to conduct the first DT, as it remains in the Covid-19 red zone.

Phangyul gup, Ugyen, said that he was concerned about the possibility of the allocated budget being returned due to the delay in the execution of activities.

It was learned that the dzongkhag administration has informed gups to take over office after the oath-taking ceremony, which according to the Department of Local Governance (DLG) was supposed to take place at the first sitting of DT.

However, a gup from Samtse said that the new gups formally took over office on January 24, although they could not conduct the DT.

He said that gups have already started working within the Covid-19 protocol. “We are working to endorse local government plans for the new financial year.”

A gup from Samdrupjongkhar said he was hoping to endorse the gewog budget proposal in February for the new fiscal year if the Covid-19 situation improves.

But it was learnt that gups in the dzongkhag have assumed office to prevent public services from being affected.

Trashigang is also one of the dzongkhags which has yet to conduct its first sitting of DT.

However, Bartsam gup Kelzang Dawa said that the delay of the first sitting of DT would not affect public services and the execution of development activities as gups assumed office on January 24.

Phuentsholing gup Birkha Bahadur Rai also said that there will not be much issue with the submission of budget proposals because they were already finalised.

He said that although the first DT was held, his gewog could not convene GT due to the pandemic.

According to a DLG official, about eight dzongkhags have held the first sitting of DT.

He said that the delay in DT will not have much impact on the submission of new budgets as there is time. “The block grant system gives more flexibility for local governments to plan and implement activities.”

He said that gups have been asked to assume their responsibilities and that they are engaged in Covid-19 containment activities. “Dzongkhags will conduct DT as soon as the Covid-19 situation improves.”

An observer said that the delay in holding the first sitting of LG could also raise confusion on the tenure of the local leaders in the dzongkhags where DT and GT have been delayed.

The DLG stated earlier in a notification that the local leaders’ tenure would commence from the first sitting of DT across the country.

Salaries, allowances and other entitlements will be effective from the date of the first sitting, as per the earlier notification.