Grant: Over 80 percent of the Nu 410M (million) gewog development grant (GDG) for 2013 was spent on non-economic activities across the country, according to an assessment by the National Council’s good governance committee.

Although the GDG implementation guideline clearly states to use the grant for creation of income and employment generating activities, the assessment found that only five percent of the Nu 410M, which amounts to Nu 21M was spent on agriculture.  The amount of grant spent on small and cottage industries for creation of employment was even less.

The committee’s findings stated that non-economic activities, such as construction or maintenance of farm roads, bridges, mule tracks, guesthouse, retaining wall, footpath and drainage and cultural promotion drained the 80 percent of the grant.

Farm roads alone gobbled Nu 189.7M, while culture promotion, mostly lhakhang renovation, drained Nu 97.1M.  Nu 68.45 was spent to develop infrastructure, such as construction of guesthouse, gewog office site development and its lighting and construction of retaining walls or drainage.

Irrigation channels and rural water supplies worth Nu 48.5M were either constructed or rehabilitated.

According to the assessment, local leaders also didn’t consult people much on allocation and prioritisation of the activities.

“Some activities were differently implemented from what they proposed for fund from the finance ministry,” the assessment stated.

The grant was also found unfairly distributed among the chiwogs.  Some chiwogs received no share from the funds according to the assessment.

“What concerns the committee most is that the funds could be getting misappropriated for activities of a least priority to the community resulting in waste of limited resources,” the assessment stated.

For example, Nubi gewog in Trongsa allocated funds from 2013 and 2014 for construction of gup and administrative officer’s residence without the knowledge of its people.

Nubi however isn’t an exception.  Even other dzongkhags like Lhuentse, Samdrupjongkhar, Dagana, Pemagatshel, Samtse, Lhuentse and Zhemgang, where poverty rates are above national average of 12 percent, spent most of its GDG on non-economic activities.

For instance, Lhuentse, the dzongkhag with the highest level of poverty incidence in the country, at 31.9 percent, spent Nu 7.7M on culture, such as renovation of lhakhang or construction of its kitchen, stores, toilets or lama’s residence.

Lhuentse spared only Nu 0.585M of the total Nu 16.5M for agricultural activities.

Trongsa spared nothing for agriculture or economic activity from its GDG in 2013, despite being one of the dzongkhags with the lowest level of self-sufficiency.  It has also been found out that Phumzur, which is the most remote village in Langthel gewog, received nothing from the past two years’ GDG.

Langthel instead administered Nu 4M to either renovate lhakhang or build farm roads in places better equipped with infrastructure than Phumzur.

Some activities in Drakteng gewog included renovation of Dhungkhor (Prayer Wheel) in Yurmung.  Martshala gewog in Samdrupjongkhar also appropriated Nu 0.1M on choeten maintenance in Rikhay.

Pemagatshel, which is grappling with dwindling mandarin production, spared Nu 7.9M on culture promotion against Nu 2.57M for agriculture and employment generation.  Its counterpart, Tsebar, also constructed a prayer wheel house.

But Trashigang tops the list in spending GDG to cultural promotion, with Nu 12.9M allocated for lhakhang renovation or developing facilities within its premises.  Trashigang used Nu 1.13M of the total Nu 30M in agriculture.  The committee is yet to assess the spending of the Nu 410M GDG released in 2014.

By Tempa Wangdi, Trongsa