Pointing out various lapses in the implementation of Dzongkhag Development Grant (DDG) by dzongkhag administrations, the National Council (NC) has asked in writing to the Prime Minister to ensure that the local government complies with the DDG guidelines.

NC’s good governance committee (GGC) recently conducted a review of the DDG-funded activities implemented during the financial year 2016-17. The committee found that most of the activities were implemented beyond the scope of the DDG guidelines.

In an August 16 letter to the Prime Minister, the House of Review directed local governments to implement DDG-funded activities in “strict compliance” with the guidelines. The Ministry of Finance has also been asked to release the grants only if the proposed activities fall within the scope of the guidelines.

NC has also called on the government to ensure that DDG-funded activities are prioritised to achieve intended objectives of enhancing economic activities to generate employment and benefit local communities.

Despite guidelines requiring the DDG-funded activities to be approved by the Dzongkhag Tshogdu (DT), the Council observed that most of the dzongkhag administrations took “unilateral decisions” both in identifying and approving the DDG-funded activities.

The committee’s Chairperson, Tharchen, said that the lapses had occurred due lack of awareness on the DDG guideline among the dzongkhag administrations and DT members.

“Some of the LG members were not aware of the existence of the guideline,” he said adding that most of the funds were used for non-economic activities. “This defeated the whole objective of DDG, which is Wangtse Chirpel.”

In many dzongkhags, the committee found that local leaders were not even consulted by the dzongkhag administrations while identifying and implementing DDG-funded programmes. As per the guidelines, a dzongkhag administration can implement DDG-funded programmes only with the DT’s approval.

Besides their annual budgets, each dzongkhag is allocated a DDG of Nu 7 million (M) starting from the financial year 2016-17. This is part of the government’s policy to enhance the decentralisation of financial authority to local governments.

During the financial year, a total of Nu 138.326M was spent as DDGs. The primary objective of DDG is employment and income generation.

However, the committee noted that nearly 82.41 percent of the total grants were allocated for non-economic activities. It found that Nu 24.3M (17.6 percent) was allocated for economic activities.

Non-economic activities included conducting of an “awareness training on suicide prevention” and procurement of LCD projectors for schools.

“The Council express serious concerns over the gross misallocation of funds for non economic purposes,” Tharchen said. “I hope the ministries of finance and home and cultural affairs would immediately inform the LG institutions to go by DDG guideline.”

The Council stated to the government that most of the LG members were found to be unaware of the objectives of DDG. Citing Section 3.2 of the guidelines, NC stated that the grant should be used for funding one or more activities that would strengthen economy and generate employment, income and benefit the LGs or communities.

It also found that about 63 percent of the total grants (Nu 87.74M) was allocated for planned activities.

According to the guidelines, the grant “may be used to supplement” the planned programmes, “if the funds secured for the planned program is insufficient.”

According to the committee, 16 dzongkhags – Chhukha, Haa, Paro, Samtse, Tsirang, Dagana, Wangdue, Bumthang, Sarpang, Zhemgang, Trongsa, Lhuntse, Trashigang, Thimphu, Gasa and Tashiyangtse – reported that they did not constitute monitoring and evaluation committees, as required by the guidelines. The committee shall monitor the progress and quality of the activities.

Seven dzongkhags – Chhukha, Haa, Paro, Samtse, Tsirang, Dagana and Wangdue –reported that they had implemented DDG activities without the DT’s approval.

According to the findings, the approval and fund release process for DDG was not followed as prescribed in the guidelines. The Department of National Budget and the finance ministry were found to have released DDG funds for activities, which were beyond the scope of the DDG guidelines.

Once the DT approves the proposed activities, the dzongkhag administration requests the Department of National Budget for incorporating the specific activities in the Multi-Year Rolling Budget. This should be done only if the activities are within the scope of guidelines.

Thimphu dzongdag Tshewang Rinzin, however said, that DDG-funded activities were implemented as per the guidelines. “We followed the guidelines while implementing the activities,” he said.

The grant, he said, was used for construction of irrigation channels and supply of drinking water. The dzongdag said that the monitoring committee could approve the activities since the DT constitutes the committee.

Paro dzongdag Tenzin Thinley said most of the activities under DDG were targeted at benefiting the farmers of his dzongkhag. “We utilised the grant for activities such as drinking water schemes,” he said.

Dechheling gup Sonam Rinchen of Pemagatshel said that it was not possible to comply with the guidelines completely. Another gup said that most of the funds would remain unutilised if the LG were to follow the guidelines strictly.

MB Subba