BANEPA MUNICIPALITY Unhelpful Nexus

Nominees of political parties and local employees are mobilizing resources of Banepa Municipality in the interest of a handful few. In the absence of legitimate elected representatives, nobody seems accountable. The municipality offers an example of

Nov. 21, 2010, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol. 04 No.-11, Nov 19 2010 (Mangsir 03, 2067)

What does it show when blacktopped roads fall apart in less than a year after construction? And, pavements alongside the highway turn bumpy in six months?

Something seriously wrong, right?
As construction works under several projects continue in different places, nobody knows how long the infrastructure built by them lasts.

In terms of the volume of construction, Banepa Municipality does not lag far behind others. The municipal council, which is composed of nominees of local bodies, annually approves a number of projects and allocates budgets to them.

The Local Self-Governance Act 1999 and Regulation 1999 have set up various measures to check the quality of works before making the final payment to the contractors. Yet municipal officials are paying contractors by undermining the law.

In the absence of proper supervision, the quality of construction is often low. This means the municipality will have to spend additional resources annually for maintenance of infrastructure.

“Have a look here, this pavement was handed over by a project just a month ago,” said a resident of Banepa, showing a tattered and broken pavement in the main market. “We don’t know where to complain and with whom to discuss this matter.”

Rabin Shakya, a local businessman, said, “This kind of thing has been happening here regularly for the last many years.”

Executive officer and secretary of Banepa Municipality Mahesh Baral is fed up.

“I am helpless. I cannot do anything to bring changes as long as politicians, contractors and local employees combine their strengths and stand together,” said Baral, “I have already requested the ministry for my transfer from here.”

The people have no option but to watch helplessly in the absence of any organized body to protest against such irregularities.

According to clause 117 (2), projects which are directly concerned with the people at the municipal level shall be operated through consumer committees. In keeping with this provision, the municipality set up 22 CCs in Banepa. Clause 117 (4) says CCs may collect service charges from the consumers who receive services from such projects but they have little role in financial and quality control matters. 

One recent instance, out of several, showed the nature of municipal irregularities in which employees cheated the consumer groups.

In March 2010, Banepa Municipality announced a grant of Rs. 9650.00 (US$ 120) to purchase certain construction material and equipment to each consumer committee on condition that it would need to contribute 10 percent or an equivalent, that is, Rs.965.000 (US$12).

In line with this, 22 consumer committees deposited Rs.965.00 each to the municipality. They expected to receive the material and equipment within a month. But then, it took five months for the municipality to deliver on it.

Worse still, the municipality handed over six bags of limestone powder, each worth Rs.240.00 (US$ 3.5). As per the understanding, the municipality had to offer limestone powder used against insect and bacteria, not the limestone powder used in agriculture lands.

The price of toxic limestone powder was Rs. 800.00 (12 dollars), four times higher than the agricultural one. They also handed over 6 pieces of shovel each costing Rs. 250.00 (US$ 3. 6). The cost of all these materials was Rs. 4900.00 (US$ 71). Including the Value Added Tax, the price would be around Rs.6500.00 (US$ 90).

With all the pluses and minuses done, municipal employees got Rs. 3100.00 (43 US dollars) from each consumer committee.

“What can we expect from municipal employees who openly took Rs. 3100.00 from each of our committees by giving us agricultural limestone powder instead of the toxic powder to kill insects,” said chairman of Karuna Tole Improvement Consumer Committee Ratna Bhakta Pote.

He indicated that there was rampant corruption in the municipality but no one to challenge it.

Many employees are involved in irregularities and corruption but nobody dares to speak against them because they are local residents. Out of 116 employees in the municipality, only 8 employees are from outside.      





 

Construction ControversyThe construction of a pavement in Banepa generated a major controversy. The 1.6 kilometer long pavement cost a lot of money and much of it was said to have gone into the pockets of contractors and politicians. The Rs. 14.2 million project landed in controversy following the protest of local people about the quality of cement blocks used in the pavement. Although the cement blocks were sent for quality test and the institution involved in the test said the quality was substandard, the municipality released the full payment to the contractor.

People pointed out unholy relations between contractors, politicians and technical staffs of the municipality -- without whose recommendation, the payment cannot be released. However, concerned politicians and municipal employees blamed the lab for deliberately giving false reports.

The municipality is required to follow the Public Procurement Act (PPA)-2007, and Public Procurement Regulations (PPR), which have established a new framework for regulating, managing, executing, and overseeing procurement in Nepal. The rules, however, are rarely followed.

The 290-meter blacktopped Karuna road in Banepa, which came in for controversy following the protests by the local population, was constructed with the cost of 4.3 million rupees promising a 10-year guarantee. The road was ruined within a year and the contractor, in this case, was paid even before carrying out the quality check.

“The contractor did not listen to our complaints and used low quality materials,” said Pote, “Even then, the municipal employees paid the contractor.”

Lapses of Municipal Council
Although an elected Municipal Council is responsible to plan and monitor projects and coordinate with the consumer committee, such a body does not exist now. The power and authority of Municipal Council are now exercised by a Political Mechanism composed of a few nominated leaders of main political parties.

According to clause 94 (a) of Local Self Governance Act, the council passes the budget on plans and programs submitted by the municipality. The clause 94 (d) says the council will discuss on the irregularities determined by the audit report of the municipality and direct the municipality to take necessary action for the clearance of the irregularities in respect of those irregularities which cannot be checked under the prevailing law.

In absence of such a body, nobody is there to check irregular activities. Local people are scared that employees may create troubles and hurdles for them in the future.

Executive officer Baral also agreed that nobody dares to speak against local employees.

“Since a large number of staff working in the municipality are locals, I too cannot defy their suggestions and pressures. I have already lost the interest to work as an executive secretary here because of the pressure I have to face from local politicians as well as local employees,” said Baral.

Clause 100 of Local Governance Act 1999 says the function and power of executive secretary will be to perform all administrative works of the municipality under the direction of the mayor. His duty also includes keeping accurate records of the projects completed by consumer groups and by others, maintaining the accounts of expenses incurred on the construction works performed within the municipality and submitting the accounts of such construction clearance.



  

Scandal after Scandal
Banepa Municipality has been implementing several local level development projects in its areas. However, municipal officials and the political mechanism, composed of members nominated by political parties, misuse their position and clout to get some sort of lucrative business rather than showing concern about the quality of work. So there is a scandal all the time.

“There are certain vested interest groups which are against us. Political mechanism has been perfectly working. As political leaders, we are more concerned about the need of the people,” said a Nepali Congress leader.

The chapter 6 of Local Self Governance Act 1998 directs the municipality to formulate plans and the process of implementation. A series of process is passed before formalization of a development project planned in the area.  The issue of quality and longevity is confined to just the bookkeeping part.

Along with other scandals, petty corruption practices are also flourishing in the municipality. Local employees seek favors in various forms such as in mobile charges, or petrol for their motor bikes. “I have heard it is only here the people have to pay additional money to employees for performing their duties,” said Baral.

Fruits of Development to Whom?

The preamble of Local Self Governance Act 1999 says, “whereas, it is expedient to: Make Provisions conducive to the enjoyment of the fruits of democracy through the utmost participation of the sovereign people into the process of governance by way of decentralization.”

Following the expiry of tenure of local bodies in 2002, municipalities like Banepa are now under the nominees of political parties and local employees who don’t care about the needs of the people. They, instead, are misusing the power for personal gains.

Executive officer Baral observed, “due to politics in contracts and contracts in politics, the municipality failed to work in favor of the people. In the absence of elected representatives, the local bodies are now under all party nominated committees. Even municipal employees complain that they are compelled to work under the political influence of particular political parties.”

According to a study report of Asian Development Bank, one of the biggest challenges for municipalities is upgrading staff capacity. The report says accountability of the staff is more process oriented than results-oriented. There is a lack of linkage between work performance and staff performance and periodical performance evaluation system is not practiced.

Story of Municipal Employees

“Of course, there are some irregularities among employees. But, it is politics which local political leaders are promoting. We cannot do anything to prevent local political leaders in manipulating the decisions in their favor. Even the contracts are awarded to the favorites of local politicians,” said a local municipal official on condition of anonymity. We know what is happening but nobody wants to take risk of life by disclosing or revealing what is happening.”

Municipal officials cite several stories of how members of political mechanism misused the resources for their personal purposes. A year ago a delegation of political mechanism led by then executive officer went to an observation tour of a modern slaughter house in Hetauda. The team returned by completing a trip to Nainital, India. The municipality paid all their expenses, amounting to about half a million rupees.

According to the German Technical Cooperation (GTZ) - Urban Development through Local Efforts (UDLE), there is the need for more reforms in the accounting system of municipality to make it more transparent and accountable to the people.

Recommendation of Politicians

In awarding contracts of development projects as well as disbursement of social security funds, recommendations of members of political mechanism and political leaders prevail. “How can we defy decisions which are taken by politicians?” asked a municipal official on condition of anonymity.

The Asian Development Banks’s report also pointed out that governance issues have been a major factor undermining the effectiveness of municipality spending. One of the problems is the excessive involvement of political parties during selection and implementation of projects; and increasing level of corruption.

Though the municipal officials stressed that need based, bottom up approach is followed through consultation with community leaders in the presence of local political leaders at the ward level during the program planning stage, in reality, it is the representatives of political parties, who constitute an all party advisory body, that advises and supports the Executive Officer, who is currently vested with the authority of the municipal council.

Sanitation Project
In another instance, with an objective to improve the sanitation situation, Banepa Municipality is constructing a sewerage system. Supported by Asian Development Bank, the Rs.120 million sewerage construction project will be completed by December.

For the completion of the project, local population has to pay Rs.1000.00 each. “People need to pay service and operational charge once this project will start. If we fail to mobilise the consumer group, the sewerage system cannot function properly. For better sanitation, people living in the municipal area will have to pay. There is the need to secure contribution of local population."

As the possibility of holding elections to local bodies and provinces is far away, the people of Banepa Municipality have no option other than to live with the hard reality.

Banepa Municipality covers 828 ha and consists of 11 wards. It is one of the smallest municipalities of Nepal. According to the census of 2001, the population of the municipality is 15882 with 3015 households. Now it is estimated to be around 100,000.

Despite all the systems in place, Banepa Municipality’s experiences have shown how the absence of elected representatives renders a municipality non-functional and corrupt.
This is the fourth of nine investigative stories on politics of local bodies supported by The Asia Foundation. The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect those of The Foundation or Founder.


 

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Scandal after Scandal
Banepa Municipality has been implementing several local level development projects in its areas. However, municipal officials and the political mechanism, composed of members nominated by political parties, misuse their position and clout to get some sort of lucrative business rather than showing concern about the quality of work. So there is a scandal all the time.

“There are certain vested interest groups which are against us. Political mechanism has been perfectly working. As political leaders, we are more concerned about the need of the people,” said a Nepali Congress leader.

The chapter 6 of Local Self Governance Act 1998 directs the municipality to formulate plans and the process of implementation. A series of process is passed before formalization of a development project planned in the area.  The issue of quality and longevity is confined to just the bookkeeping part.

Along with other scandals, petty corruption practices are also flourishing in the municipality. Local employees seek favors in various forms such as in mobile charges, or petrol for their motor bikes. “I have heard it is only here the people have to pay additional money to employees for performing their duties,” said Baral.

Fruits of Development to Whom?

The preamble of Local Self Governance Act 1999 says, “whereas, it is expedient to: Make Provisions conducive to the enjoyment of the fruits of democracy through the utmost participation of the sovereign people into the process of governance by way of decentralization.”

Following the expiry of tenure of local bodies in 2002, municipalities like Banepa are now under the nominees of political parties and local employees who don’t care about the needs of the people. They, instead, are misusing the power for personal gains.

Executive officer Baral observed, “due to politics in contracts and contracts in politics, the municipality failed to work in favor of the people. In the absence of elected representatives, the local bodies are now under all party nominated committees. Even municipal employees complain that they are compelled to work under the political influence of particular political parties.”

According to a study report of Asian Development Bank, one of the biggest challenges for municipalities is upgrading staff capacity. The report says accountability of the staff is more process oriented than results-oriented. There is a lack of linkage between work performance and staff performance and periodical performance evaluation system is not practiced.

Story of Municipal Employees

“Of course, there are some irregularities among employees. But, it is politics which local political leaders are promoting. We cannot do anything to prevent local political leaders in manipulating the decisions in their favor. Even the contracts are awarded to the favorites of local politicians,” said a local municipal official on condition of anonymity. We know what is happening but nobody wants to take risk of life by disclosing or revealing what is happening.”

Municipal officials cite several stories of how members of political mechanism misused the resources for their personal purposes. A year ago a delegation of political mechanism led by then executive officer went to an observation tour of a modern slaughter house in Hetauda. The team returned by completing a trip to Nainital, India. The municipality paid all their expenses, amounting to about half a million rupees.

According to the German Technical Cooperation (GTZ) - Urban Development through Local Efforts (UDLE), there is the need for more reforms in the accounting system of municipality to make it more transparent and accountable to the people.

Recommendation of Politicians

In awarding contracts of development projects as well as disbursement of social security funds, recommendations of members of political mechanism and political leaders prevail. “How can we defy decisions which are taken by politicians?” asked a municipal official on condition of anonymity.

The Asian Development Banks’s report also pointed out that governance issues have been a major factor undermining the effectiveness of municipality spending. One of the problems is the excessive involvement of political parties during selection and implementation of projects; and increasing level of corruption.

Though the municipal officials stressed that need based, bottom up approach is followed through consultation with community leaders in the presence of local political leaders at the ward level during the program planning stage, in reality, it is the representatives of political parties, who constitute an all party advisory body, that advises and supports the Executive Officer, who is currently vested with the authority of the municipal council.

Sanitation Project
In another instance, with an objective to improve the sanitation situation, Banepa Municipality is constructing a sewerage system. Supported by Asian Development Bank, the Rs.120 million sewerage construction project will be completed by December.

For the completion of the project, local population has to pay Rs.1000.00 each. “People need to pay service and operational charge once this project will start. If we fail to mobilise the consumer group, the sewerage system cannot function properly. For better sanitation, people living in the municipal area will have to pay. There is the need to secure contribution of local population."

As the possibility of holding elections to local bodies and provinces is far away, the people of Banepa Municipality have no option other than to live with the hard reality.

Banepa Municipality covers 828 ha and consists of 11 wards. It is one of the smallest municipalities of Nepal. According to the census of 2001, the population of the municipality is 15882 with 3015 households. Now it is estimated to be around 100,000.

Despite all the systems in place, Banepa Municipality’s experiences have shown how the absence of elected representatives renders a municipality non-functional and corrupt.
This is the fourth of nine investigative stories on politics of local bodies supported by The Asia Foundation. The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect those of The Foundation or Founder.


 

Please type your text here.

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