By Purushottam P. Khatri
Kathmandu, Feb. 9: There comes always a good reason for leaders, the sitting and former constitutional body members, getting a good amount of government assistance for treating their diseases.
The tendency to seek treatment at famous international hospitals is one of the reasons leaders request for the dole.
Ten different governments were formed over a period of 13 years after the Second People’s Uprising-2006/07 in Nepal, and within that period, over Rs 4 billion was distributed by the governments to political leaders, cadres and close ones in the name of providing economic assistance and medical expenses.
The above amount doesn’t include the records of the past seven months after June 16, 2019, although this scribe made repeated attempts to get the latest figures from the Ministries of Home Affairs and Finance.
There are leaders from cadres level up to senior most political position including former President, former Prime Ministers and Ministers, lawmakers and different institutions and some individuals, who benefitted from government coffers.
According to Finance Ministry records, the government had spent Rs. 30 million during the fiscal year 2063/64 B.S. (2006/07) under the economic assistance heading, while the amount rose to Rs. 260 million 10 years later in the fiscal year 2072/73.
In this particular budget heading of economic and treatment expenses, the government was found to be increasing the amount by 800 per cent.
The government was found distributing up to Rs. 2.5 billion in one fiscal year. The records even showed that one particular leader was also found given up to Rs. 20 million as assistance for treatment.
Every year, the government had been distributing more than the actual budget allocated for these headings. In 2071/72, the government had allocated Rs. 200 million but in the same year it spent Rs. 2.51 billion.
According to the records,
the current KP Sharma Oli-led government in office from February 15, 2018 had distributed Rs. 398 million by June 15, 2019.
During his first term as Prime Minister for 10 months from October 10, 2017, Oli government had distributed Rs. 122 million. In total, Oli-led government distributed Rs. 520 million during its two different terms.
On an average, Oli-led government had disbursed Rs. 20.26 million every month.
Meanwhile, a source at the Ministry of Finance, on condition of anonymity told TRN that the Ministry couldn’t raise a question and block a decision that was sanctioned by the Cabinet in case of disbursing expenses to the VVIPs.
“We have no other choice but to release the quoted budget to the concerned officials as decided by the Cabinet,” the source said.
Kedarnath Sharma, joint-secretary and spokesperson at the Ministry of Home Affairs, said that the Ministry had a provision of providing only economic assistance to VVIPs while treatment assistance was provided by the Ministry of Health.
Sharma claimed that his Ministry had been distributing the economic assistance remaining under the existing rules and criteria of the government. “All the assistance amounts released from the Ministry are going through established rules,” Sharma said.
After 2074 BS, the trend of distributing money to leaders came down by over 50 per cent compared to the period prior to that, Nirmal Neupane, under-secretary and chief at the Finance Administration Section under the Home Ministry, told by telephone.
According to the audit report of 2075/76 of the Ministry, the Ministry had given out Rs. 130 million, Neupane said.
After the Home Ministry wrote a letter to the Finance Minister requesting to release the mentioned amount as endorsed by the Cabinet, the concerned individuals get the money transferred directly to their bank accounts. Earlier, A/C payee cheques used to be issued in their names, Neupane said.
The decision to provide money to the VVIPs and political leaders must be taken by a seven-member committee headed by Health Secretary as the chairman.
Which government distributed how much?
The Sher Bahadur Deuba-led government from June 6, 2017 to February 14, 2018 had disbursed Rs. 398 million, Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda’s government from August 3, 2016 to June 6, 2017 approved Rs. 594 million, and late Sushil Koirala-led government from February 11, 2014 to October 11, 2015 distributed Rs. 372.
Koirala-led government, formed right after the second Constituent Assembly election, alone had distributed Rs. 50.61 million during his term. Just days before leaving the government on October 1, 2015, Koirala’s cabinet had approved distribution of Rs. 20.2 million to 178 people in one day, ahead of Dashain festival.
Who were the beneficiaries?
According to the records, late Prime Minister Sushil Koirala during his time and even earlier than that had himself received Rs. 10.87 million on nine occasions both in the name of economic assistance and medical treatment.
Also, present PM Oli had taken Rs. 10.26 million as of June 15, 2019, while former President Dr. Ram Baran Yadav had been given Rs. 7 million for his treatment in Chandigarh of India and the U.S.A. for two times. Besides, the government had also arranged for USD 300 per day for his food and hotel expenses and USD 150 to others, who accompanied him during his treatment abroad.
Some other leaders, lawmakers, and individuals who received the assistance include – former Vice-president Paramananda Jha (wife’s treatment) Rs. 930,112; Chakra Bastola Rs. Rs. 5 million; late Tulsi Giri Rs. 2 million; Khum Bahadur Khadka Rs. 4 million; Devendraj Kandel Rs. 1.58 million; Ramnath Dhakal (died from swine-flu) Rs. 1.71 million; Govinda Raj Joshi Rs. 2.7 million; Ram Sharan Mahat Rs. 283,897; Shahana Pradhan Rs. 3.18 million; Narahari Acharya 3.36 million and Bhimsendas Pradhan Rs. 2.5 million.
Likewise, Sanjit Foundation received Rs. 2.1 million for climbing various mountains; Progressive and Professional Legal Organisation Rs. 500,000; Centre for Studies of Social Democracy Rs. 5 million; Aditya Baral (Google Boy) Rs. 10.36 million; Nepal Bar Association Rs. 1 million for conducting a convention of All Nepal National Legal Professionals; Former Lawmakers’ Forum Rs. 6 million; BP Chintan Academy Rs. 2.5 million; National Independent Employees Union Centre Rs. 300,000 and Youth Association Nepal Rs. 700,000.
Former Chief Justice Ram Kumar Prasad Shah received Rs. 5.39 million, while Sujata Koirala and Biswendra Paswan received Rs. 5 million and Rs. 4.3 million respectively.
The government also distributed Rs. 10 million to Ganeshman Singh Foundation, Rs. 800,000 to Nepal Prajatantra Senani Sangh and Rs. 50.37 million to Official Trade Union of the Employees to hold their election.
Meanwhile, President of Finance Committee Krishna Prasad Dahal, talking to The Rising Nepal by telephone, said that the Committee had not held any meeting in regard to distribution of financial assistance provided to leaders and lawmakers.
He said that when Oli-led government came into power, the trend of releasing such amount has been reduced to a significant extent. He, however, said that his Committee was cautious about regulating and not letting the government distribute money whenever and however it deemed appropriate.