Mangal Man Maharjan, 30, a resident of Chapagaun Village Development Committee does not have any experience of taking part in the local elections. When the last local election was held in 1996, Maharjan was just a 14-year kid. Although there are many problems in his village, Pyangau, such as lack of sanitation, shortage of water supply and deteriorating road conditions, nothing is moving as per the demand of the villagers.
Along with receiving the annual budget from Lalitpur District Development Committee, the VDC has also got its own annual resources. In the absence of elected representatives, there is nobody to set the priority areas and ensure equitable distribution of funds in various wards. Even the resources allocated to the VDCs are often spent randomly.
Chapagaun is not the only village witnessing this situation. Village Development Committees across the country have been running in a mess generally. Instead of working under some 47 elected representatives, with two executive, local bodies are now under the control of a few nominated political activists and a secretary.
Like in the High Level Political Committee (HLPC) at the center which guides the government led by Khil Raj Regmi, the local level political mechanism does a similar thing. As the institution without accountability, nobody can question the performance of the local bodies.
As more than 10 million new voters are registered in the voting list, Maharjan is willing to see the elected representatives take charge of the village. Although the government set the local election date for April 2014, people have rarely hoped to see that happening. Nepal’s tragedy is that over 3099 VDCs, the lowest units of participatory democracy, are without representatives for such a long time. The polls for local bodies used to be held periodically during the Panchayat days.
“We have been pushing for long to hold the elections for local bodies,” said Madhav Poudel, former chairman of Lalitpur District Development Committee. “The resources of VDCs, DDCs and Municipalities drained and development is virtually at a halt at the local level.”
The Auditor General’s report also highlighted the massive misuse of funds at the local level. Although the Auditor General’s Office performed auditing of the District Development Committee, it asked private auditors to audit VDCs and Municipalities. Auditor General’s Report 2012 narrated the events of massive misuse of funds by District Development Committee.
“We are seriously concerned about the account system of DDCs and VDCs. There are huge amounts of money under unsettled account and we have already suggested several options,” Auditor General Bhanu Prasad Acharya told New Spotlight.
Local bodies are the first step of a democratic exercise and set the development agenda in priority. Whether it is the work about sanitation, drinking water, rural road or health for all, lack of elected representatives is hampering it. In the absence of local bodies, NGOs and INGOs are somehow fulfilling the gap. “Had there been the elected bodies, Nepal’s development pace would have gone much faster, by taking the civil society organizations, like NGOs and INGOs, together,” said Poudel.
Until the elections for local bodies are held, nothing can make them accountable and there is nothing to fill the gap. As the demands for services like water, sanitation, education and local infrastructure is growing at the local level, only the elected local bodies can address them with accountability.