Council: The Good Governance Committee of the National Council (NC) has submitted recommendations for judicial use of the Gewog Development Grant (GDG) by local government, one of which was to educate the people about the scheme.

Presenting the recommendations in the House yesterday, member of the committee, Kamal Bahadur Gurung, said besides reviewing the findings of the Royal Audit Authority (RAA), the committee also studied the responses provided by the Ministry of Finance against each of those findings.

The NC member from Tsirang said that while most of the responses were found to be tenable there were a few points that merit further attention of the government. He reported that although people in most gewogs are aware of the GDG scheme and have actively engaged in the utilisation of the fund, there appears to be “pockets of communities” that are unaware of the scheme.

If GDG is to achieve its noble intention of deepening decentralisation, the committee suggested that there is a need for the people at the grassroots to actively participate in deciding how the fund should be utilised.

Educating people about the scheme is the “key”, according to the committee. The committee suggested that there is a need for the government to continuously inform and educate the general public on any form of local government grants such as GDG and the dzongkhag development grant (DDG)and their usage with intended objectives and purposes.

One of the main highlights of the RAA findings is non-compliance to the existing guidelines starting from planning to the execution of the GDG funded activities. The issue of non-compliance of the GDG guidelines was observed and the NC accordingly asked the government to resolve the issue.

However, the reoccurrence of the issue suggested that there is a need for the NC to follow up with the government on the implementation of the earlier recommendation by the House, the committee suggested. It was recommended that the government be questioned on what kind of monitoring and accountability mechanisms are in place to ensure maximum compliance to the guidelines by the local governments.

Since the activities implemented under the GDG are over and above the regular planned development activities, there obviously is stress on the limited human resources capacity of the gewog. The problem, according to the committee, is confirmed by the performance audit report that has highlighted that owing to lack of technical capacity and monitoring support both at the gewog and the dzongkhag level, implementation of most of the GDG activities were either delayed or suffered with poor quality.

Therefore, the committee stated that there is a need to strengthen the technical capacity of the local government as per section 265 of the Local Government (Amendment) Act 2014 to achieve the intended objectives of GDG.

It was observed that GDG funds are spent on wasteful activities. For instance, Nu 31.854 million was found to have been spent on infrastructures that are either not usable or incomplete, rendering the expenditures unproductive. “This is due to lack of proper planning, coordination and monitoring.”

To achieve the intended result and optimise the benefits of scarce resources, the committee members said there is a need for elected local leaders to look into utilising the resources judiciously and prudently through proper planning, coordination and monitoring.

Gasa’s NC member Sangay Khandu said it is okay to provide the grant equally despite the size of the gewog and population. “It’s for the institution of the local government that the grant is provided,” he said.

He argued that some small gewogs are underdeveloped and need more funds than others. He said the grant is a very import aspect of the decentralisation policy.

There was consensus among the members that the money is for the gewog’s development and to empower local governments.

Member from Dagana, Sonam Dorji, thanked the government for creating the fund. “Although there is some difference between the quality of works executed with planned budget and GDG, it has benefited the people,” he said.

MB Subba