MECHINAGAR MUNICIPALITY: Resource Drain

Over the last five years, Mechinagar Municipality, a township bordering India 600 kilometers east of the Nepalese capital, has allocated increasing resources under the capital development head of its budget. Huge sums of municipal money were set asid

Aug. 24, 2010, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol.:4 No.-06 August 20- September 02,2010(Bhadra-04,2067)

Mechinagar Municipality’s total budget was more than Rs. 70 million in 2007.  It spent  over 50 million  rupees in  development works.. Every year, it  passes the budget for various development projects, including drinking water, sewerage construction and maintenance and construction of city roads, health posts, schools and land fill sites. However, all the works are incomplete.

 

According to the detailed revenue breakdown with budget and achievements of 2006/07, done by Urban Development through Local Efforts Program, a joint project of Nepal Government and German Economic Cooperation GTZ, the total expenditure of Mechinagar Municipality is Rs. 47,491,993, Rs. 41,476,273, Rs.39, 105,722, Rs 39,783,535, Rs. 54,305,045, Rs. 73,372,190, for the years through 2002/03 to 2007 respectively. The municipality spent huge amounts of money under the title of capital investment in the same period: Rs. 29,853,770, Rs 22,354,599, Rs. 18,614,599, Rs 16,712,358, Rs 29,851,242,  Rs 54 30 50 45.

 

Although the municipality has been allocating the money for the construction of the land-fill site and city hall annually  for the last many years,  they are yet to come into operation. Local people complain that whatever the amount of money the municipality pumped, its land-fill site project is nowhere near  completion.

 

"Every year the municipality allocates sums for the land-fill site, but it always complains that the work is incomplete because of lack of money. Where does the money go? "vice president of the Hotel Association of Mechinagar Nabin Pradhan shows his rage when  asked about the facilities that the people of Mechinagar Municipality have got till now. "We pay taxes but there is no proper  mobilization  of the taxes we pay to the municipality."

 

It  is not just  this businessman who feels so.  An overwhelming number of citizens and the leaders of the social or occupational organizations question about the activities of the municipality. The president of the Federation of Nepalese Journalists, Jhapa Branch, who resides permanently in the municipality, Mohan Kazi Neupane says, "Even the wastes of the municipality are not properly managed in the sanitary landfill site, which is located in  ward number 2 of the municipality."

 

About 40 percent of the annual budget of Mechinagar Municipality is used  to manage the solid waste and the municipality allocates the budget in sanitation title including construction of infrastructure, and wall of land-fill site.

 

According to local sources, the municipalities assign  various individuals to complete the construction works. The individuals get advance money from the municipality. Their final payment  is made  at the end of the fiscal year. So far as the progress of works  is concerned, nothing much really happened.

 

As all other municipalities, Mechinagar Municipality transacts in cash for all its contractors and others. There is a possibility of misuse where most of the petty contracts are awarded on the recommendation of executive members.

 

"Although the management of sanitary landfill site is the basic work of the municipality, because of the protest of the local people, we are unable to dump wastes in the site." Tika Datta Rai, the executive officer of the municipality, said. He does not reply why the municipality fails to construct it.

 

"We cannot trust the municipality will make the site as a sanitary landfill site. It is doubtful the municipality will use it in a proper way, so we have protested regarding this," Sudesh Kumar Paneru, a local of Mechinagar Municipality 2, said.

 

Local population complains that there is rampant misuse of resources. For instance, the municipal board member, who is nominated by the political parties as a member of municipal board, made influence to give the petty contract to his or her own follower.

 

“The tenders for the construction of civil work are awarded to the members of board and they will receive the money in advance without showing the progress report,” said an employee of municipality on condition of anonymity. “Since the members of board are accountable to nowhere, they don’t mind to misuse the fund.”

 

This is the reason despite spending  so much of resources to construct the land fill site, the municipality disposes the wastes now under the roads, now in the rivers and sometimes digging the land.

 

"This process of disposing solid wastes is not good. The municipality should use the landfill site but the land which is bought for the site is not suitable because there is a river near it," an engineer of the municipality,  Kamal Koirala, sais.

 


"It is very harmful if the wastes go to the river. It is sad that no consultation was made with the technical persons at the time when the land was bought," he added. Why don't  they construct the land-fill site now?

 

After getting the views of the people, it should be said that the people of Mechinagar Municipality are deprived of getting facilities of municipality although the municipality was constituted in 1998 covering Kakarvitta and Dhulabari VDCs of eastern Nepal which touch the Indian state, West Bengal. It has its total area 57.72 Sq. Km. Fifty six thousand more people live in the municipality.

 

Other Development

As per the official record, Mechinagar Municipality invests 95 percent in development works of its yearly budget. But many development works are still pending as they were started four or five years ago. Community Building of Kakarvitta is an example. It should have been  completed within the two fiscal years but the  work is still going on as it has touched the fourth fiscal year this year. The budget of the building will certainly cross when it becomes ready. Its budget was NRs. 20 million but now the expense has already crossed NRs 10.5 million.

 

As per the Local Self Governance Act (LSGA) 1999, municipality summon the Municipal Council meetings annually to pass the budget and programs for development. The executive body requires council’s approval annually and the executive board needs to present its budget and audit report to it.

 

Auditor General raised the questions over the auditing of overwhelming municipalities in Nepal. Nothing has changed in the state of municipality. Commission of Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) recently expressed the concern over the use of resources at local level.


 

"Along with landfill site, the Community hall in Kakarvitta and many projects like blacktopping of the roads, and some bridges are still pending due to the lack of budget," an engineer of the Municipality, Kamal Koirala said, "The trend of making budget by the assumption of revenue collection, and the donations from different donors has affected the big projects of the municipality. The collection won't be according to the assumption as a result there will be scarcity of money at the time of payment."

 

The rest percentage of the budget goes to poverty reduction program and other skill development trainings but the result is absolutely negative.

 

 

The development works include the construction of new roads, widening of the narrow roads, blacktopping, making bridges across the rivers, making school buildings and the main part of the development work is  to make drains. But,  the following chart shows how much work of drainage has been completed during the last twelve years.


 

The picture itself is very clear that the principal work of drain has even not been successful although the municipality has spent most of its development budget. No proper drainage system has invited the problems of flood and many more.

 

"This is our weakness that we are unable to construct  a proper drainage system," municipal president of CPN (UML), Laxmi Uprety said, "We will try our level best to complete its construction in the forthcoming fiscal years."

 

Many people have pointed out that the absence of people's representatives has badly affected the development works of the municipality. "The employees do not have any idea what the real demands of local people are,"  executive officer Rai says, "This is open secret that we cannot know the real demand of local people because we do not work in a municipality on a permanent basis. This chair should be the chair of the mayor."

 

The municipality also failed to construct the bus park in the last 12 years. The unmanaged parking of the buses in Kakarvitta terminus is also the major problem. But, the municipality sources say that the construction of the bus park and the terminus will start this year.

 

The Community Development Officer of the Mechinagar Municipality, Ananta Prakash Wasti said, "The municipality has not given  proper attention  to the long term development works. Not even the political parties."

 


But the conscious people say that the municipality and the general people are equally responsible for this. Dharmananda Khanal, a lecturer in Economics in Dhulabari Campus, said, "People are users of the facilities provided by the Municipality but they didn't give any pressure to the municipality for the rapid construction of drains."


 

The employees of the municipality say that the expenses of donation have been increased when the committee of the leaders of the political parties came to existence in the decision level. But the committee has no legal authority to decide anything and will not be responsible in replying to any questions.

 

 

The development works include the construction of new roads, widening of the narrow roads, blacktopping, making bridges across the rivers, making school buildings and the main part of the development work is  to make drains. But,  the following chart shows how much work of drainage has been completed during the last twelve years.


 

The picture itself is very clear that the principal work of drain has even not been successful although the municipality has spent most of its development budget. No proper drainage system has invited the problems of flood and many more.

 

"This is our weakness that we are unable to construct  a proper drainage system," municipal president of CPN (UML), Laxmi Uprety said, "We will try our level best to complete its construction in the forthcoming fiscal years."

 

Many people have pointed out that the absence of people's representatives has badly affected the development works of the municipality. "The employees do not have any idea what the real demands of local people are,"  executive officer Rai says, "This is open secret that we cannot know the real demand of local people because we do not work in a municipality on a permanent basis. This chair should be the chair of the mayor."

 

The municipality also failed to construct the bus park in the last 12 years. The unmanaged parking of the buses in Kakarvitta terminus is also the major problem. But, the municipality sources say that the construction of the bus park and the terminus will start this year.

 

The Community Development Officer of the Mechinagar Municipality, Ananta Prakash Wasti said, "The municipality has not given  proper attention  to the long term development works. Not even the political parties."

 


But the conscious people say that the municipality and the general people are equally responsible for this. Dharmananda Khanal, a lecturer in Economics in Dhulabari Campus, said, "People are users of the facilities provided by the Municipality but they didn't give any pressure to the municipality for the rapid construction of drains."


 

The employees of the municipality say that the expenses of donation have been increased when the committee of the leaders of the political parties came to existence in the decision level. But the committee has no legal authority to decide anything and will not be responsible in replying to any questions.

 

 

Invisible Contractors

The main obstruction in the development works is the invisible contractors. The municipality spends seventy percent of the total expenses of the work of construction and the rest thirty percent should be from the public side. "From the public side the invisible contractors appear and the public do not invest the percent of the work instead the contractors do all works," food analyst of the municipality, Dipendra Karki said, "We are unable to check this problem because there are many causes behind and until and unless it is  checked, the quality  of the development works will be badly affected."

 

He says that the municipality has tried to include the people in the users' committee in an inclusive manner.

 

According to the leaders of the political parties, another factor that has affected the development works is the reduction of the internal sources of the municipality. The sources of internal taxes are gradually decreasing yearly. In the fiscal year of 2065-66, the source of sanitary tax was of Rs. One crore and twenty lakh but in the present fiscal year it has been reduced to Rs. Thirty four lakh. "The political parties have not given any attention to increase the sources of the municipality," internal auditor of the municipality, Madhav Poudel said, "The situation will be very crucial in future if the income sources will decline  in this rate."

 

According to the record of the account section, the municipality has liability of Rs. Two Crore seventy eight lakhs. "This is the result of making deficit budget," account officer Rajan Bhetwal said, "Up to ten percent deficit is quite considerable but this is a big between the income sources and the reality." He emphasizes that the political parties should be aware of this. The donations and the credits from the different organizations and the donor agencies lately release the allotted budget so the initial four months always remain inactive. 

 

The local people raise questions regarding the activities of the municipality. "It has done nothing except making some bridges and blacktopping some kilometers of roads in the last twelve years," a resident of Mechinagar Municipality 1, Raju Adhikari, expresses his anger towards the municipality. "There was no infrastructure of the city initially," engineer Kamal Koirala defends, "This was our challenge to make the total infrastructure of city and the rate of development is even invisible."

 

There is another factor that has increased the liability of the municipality. The factor is the maximum number of the workers and the employees. The senior employees themselves say that one hundred twenty and more employees are working under the municipality and the number should be reduced to half of it. "We are very attentive regarding this and will try to manage this in the future," municipal president of Nepali Congress, Prem Sambahamfe, said.

 

The positive point is agreement among the political parties in making policies of development and other things, except in making users' committees in some places. "Sometimes they argue and try to impose their candidates in the leadership but there is no note of dissent written till now in making plans and policies," food analyst Dipendra Karki said, "This is the plus point."

 

Everyone emphasizes that there  should be the representatives of local people in making policies and plans of projects because they understand the local demands. "The first preference should be given to the election of municipalities and VDCs after new constitution is made and the peace process is complete," Rabin Koirala, former mayor of the municipality said,  while highlighting the impact of the absence of people's representatives in the local self government.


 

The Local Self Governance Act (LSGA), promulgated in 1999, has given legal authority to municipalities to levy house and land tax or Integrated Property Tax (IPT). Municipalities have the right to levy (IPT) in lieu of House and Land Tax (HALT) and land revenue tax. IPT/HALT has become the most important  source income for most municipalities. Still, IPT coverage is comparatively poor and needs to be improved in order to strengthen municipal own source revenues and reduce the dependency of the cities on the national transfer system


 

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