We Are Waiting To Go To Finance Committee: Balananda Paudel
BALANANDA PAUDEL, the chairperson of the National Natural Resource and Fiscal Commission, spoke to KESHAB POUDEL on various issues.
How do you look at the performance of the commission over the last three years?
As per the Constitution of Nepal, all the commissions are accountable to the federal parliament, especially the House of Representatives. The concerned committees of the House of Representatives have the authority to give directions to the committees and suggest the report after review and discussion. The commission submits its report, with all its activities, to the President and the three tiers of government. As per the constitution and law, this is mandatory for all commissions, including us. As far as our commission is concerned, we have been submitting our annual reports in time. We have already submitted three reports to the President.
How many times have you attended the meeting of federal parliamentary committees to discuss the report?
So far as the committee of the National Assembly is concerned, I have attended its meetings twice to discuss our report. However, I have yet to get the opportunity to clarify and discuss our annual report with the concerned Finance Committee of the House of Representatives.
How do you view your interactions at the committee in National Assembly?
At the National Assembly, we informed members about the role and work of the commission, jurisdiction and modality on the basis of the annual report. They also questioned us and the discussion was wonderful. However, only Finance Committee has constitutional rights to direct and suggest us and ask questions with the government and concerned officials regarding the implementation of the suggestions. For the commission, the Finance Committee of the House of Representatives is highly important.
As you said, you have not attended any meeting of the federal parliamentary committee, how are you working now to show accountability to the people?
To make our process and all our activities transparent, the commission has established its own website where the commission uploads all its activities including annual reports. The commissioners also visit provinces and share reports. We are also interacting with local levels. For instance, we have also prepared the report of each of the provinces. The commission has already prepared seven reports for seven different provinces. As in the federal level, the commission also submits a report to the head of concerned provinces and the head of province hands it over to the provincial government to present in the provincial legislature. However, due to the lack of interpretation of the role of the commission and provincial parliament, our report is yet to get a proper place at provincial parliament.
What is the process of discussion?
It is the duty of the Finance Committee of the House of Representatives to discuss our reports and forward our suggestions to the concerned bodies. During the discussion in the committees, the chairperson and commissioners need to be present at the committee and provide necessary clarification in the report. It is also the duty of parliamentary committees to monitor whether the recommendations made by the commissions are implemented or not. The committee has also right to ask questions to the concerned authorities about the state of implementation of the report. As the representatives of sovereign citizens of Nepal, members of parliament have very important constitutional rights to make commissions accountable and active.
What have you to say about attending the Committee meeting?
As I have mentioned earlier, the commission has already submitted three annual reports to the President, who handed them over to the government to table in the House of Representatives. However, the Finance Committee is yet to start the process of discussing the reports presented by the commission. As per the constitution, the parliamentary committee has the authority to give necessary directions, recommendations and suggestions to our report. The Commission is eagerly waiting to attend the meeting of the parliamentary committee and reply any quires regarding the reports. This is the process where the parliamentary committees can force us to be more accountable to the people. It is necessary to start the process of discussions and questionnaires. The process of accountability will begin once the process of discussing and questioning on our report begins. As the tenure of the current federal parliament is close to completing, it will be unlikely to start the process. What I can say is that our previous three reports will lose their relevance for the coming new federal parliament. Somebody needs to be there to ask questions.
Do you see the possibility to attend the parliamentary committee?
We hope that the committee of federal parliament can summon us inappropriate time. I want to stress that there is a need to start a process to discuss and debate the report presented by the commission in a timely manner. Only through this process, we can make the commission accountable to the people. It is the responsibility of the committees of the parliament.
Why are you stressing this?
To make the constitutional committees more effective and accountable, the committees of the House of Representatives have an important role to play. As a chief commissioner, I should be asked the questions on our report. If there are any shortcomings, they should criticize us. This has not been happening. We have many things to say but we don’t have a place to go. Of course, we have been disseminating the information to the public and all tires of the government. However, this alone is not enough. Only extensive discussions in the parliamentary committee can make us more responsible and accountable. This also gives parliamentary committees the chance to suggest changes and lacunas on behalf of the Nepali people. This process must continue.
You are ready to go to the parliamentary committee for discussion on the report. Then, why is the parliamentary committee ignoring your report? Is it because of their time or the reports of the committee are not their priority?
It is the sole duty of the federal parliament to decide its priority and preference. It is up to them to carry out their day-to-day business. In the initial years, the priority of the federal parliament was to replace the acts which were against the spirit of the constitution and they also need to pass new acts as per the need of the constitutions. During that period, the parliamentary committees were also busy discussing the bills tabled in the parliament. However, the situation has changed a bit with the passing of many acts. All of us need to work to encourage the federal parliament to start its role to make the commission accountable. This will also help to improve the governance process.
It is my constitutional duty to clarify the issues and suggestions before the parliamentary committee.
Since your commission has a wider scope, particularly in the distribution of resources, don’t you think Federal Parliament needs to be more concerned?
Yes, this commission has wider scope including the distribution of resources equitably among three tiers of government. In this regard, the directions and suggestions of the parliament will be important. One of the functions and duties of our commission is to determine in a detailed basis and modality for the distribution of revenues between the federal, state, and local governments. Similarly, our duty is also to make recommendations about equalization grants to be provided to the state, local government, out of the state consolidated fund.
Committee Will Invite Commissioners Soon: Krishna Prasad Dahal
KRISHNA PRASAD DAHAL, the chairperson of the Finance Committee of the House of Representatives, is a seasoned parliamentarian with four-time consecutive victory from his Makwanpur Constituency. Dahal spoke to Keshab Poudel on various issues. Excerpts:
How do you view the role of committees of parliament to make constitutional commissions accountable to the people?
Committees are also known as mini-parliaments. Not only constitutional commissions, committees can play important roles to make them accountable and responsible to the people as well. We have been working towards that end. Besides discussing on the reports of various government agencies and commissions, we also have major role in the legislation process. All the bills tabled by the government in the House of Representatives come to us for modification and discussion. In the last three years, we have spent a majority of our time discussing the bills.
How do you look at your role as the chairperson of the committee?
House of Representatives has 10 subject committees and Finance Committee is one of them. Ministry of Finance, Planning Commission, National Natural Resources and Fiscal Commission, Nepal Rastra Bank and Nepal Investment Board fall under our jurisdiction. Finance Committee looks at the entire budget process before auditing. Our country became federal now but we still follow the process of unitary state. For instance, we are yet to fully move as per the policy of fiscal federalism. On the issue of distribution of budget to local and provincial level, we are yet to be financially strong. Despite the practices of federalism, we still have a lot of small projects with the center. We have been sending money to the local and provincial level with condition. Unfortunately, center has been implementing small projects. Due to this, there are difficulties in implementing the fiscal federalism.
So far as National Natural Resources and Fiscal Commission is concerned, it has rights to review the sharing of revenues in every five years. It is unfortunate that the commission is not involved in the making of its act. It is now depending on the act formulated by others. The commission has some problems and it needs to address them.
How do you see the budget distribution?
So far as my three years of experience is concerned the tendency to spend the budget out of the context is growing due to lack of standard and basis -- we are violating the budgetary discipline. Financial anarchy is rampant. We demand additional budget out of the annual budget. Our country has been passing through a very critical financial crisis. There is a need of reform.
As the Commissions have submitted three of its reports, as a committee responsible to make commissions accountable and guide the commissions, what role have you played so far in this regard? Have you ever invited the officials of Commission to discuss on their reports?
All the constitutional bodies present their reports to the parliament through the President and the government. We have a practice in the parliament that only Public Accounts Committee has been discussing the reports, point-wise and inviting the concerned offices in discussion. The committee annually discussed the report of Auditor General and settled the unsettled amount. The committee has also authority to settle the amount in disputes. So far as other committees are concerned, we don’t have such practices to discuss all the reports. It is also not necessary to discuss in detail such reports.
Do you have a plan to discuss with commission?
Your raised a valid concern. We held several rounds of meeting with the commissions from time to time. We also discussed with them as required. Honestly speaking, we have yet to discuss focusing on the reports of the commission. As journalists like you and experts have already drawn our attention, it is in our priority now to discuss the reports of the commission. As they have already published three reports, we will discuss with them regarding what they have issues raised and what is the state of such suggestions. As a committee responsible to make the commission accountable and responsible, the committee is planning to take some decisions.
Can the commission review its policy?
As per the law, the commission can review the revenue sharing among the three tiers of government. It also can set indicators for this. Although the law fixes the term for five years, the commission can review and suggest to the government as it wishes. In the context of fiscal federalism, the commission has a very crucial role to play and the committee also knows this as well.
Do you have any immediate plans?
Fiscal federalism is a new issue. We want to share our experiences with the commission. As you know, this is the fourth year of committee and three years of the commission. We are considering holding a meeting with the members and chairs of the commission to share our working experiences and lapses in the context of implementation of fiscal federalism. We need to draw certain conclusions on that. We will hold meetings very soon.
Despite being willing to talk and discuss intensively with the commission, we were busy in the first two years in the legislative processes very much. As a committee with such a vast scope, we were preoccupied by other works as well. However, we are equally aware about very few interactions with the commission. It is this realization with which we are going to hold discussion with the commission soon. Covid-19 pandemic also hampered the process a lot.
As a chairperson of the committee which has constitutional role to make the commission more accountable, what do you suggest to make the commission useful and effective in revenue sharing?
The name of this commission is itself natural resource and fiscal commission -- the commission has developed a formula for fiscal distribution. However the commission is yet to enter in the natural resource sharing issue. It needs to focus on how to use natural resources and how to share among the provinces and local level for the overall development. In a context, when there are growing disputes over the resource sharing, including the water and mining, the commission also needs to focus on it. For instance, the resource sharing of upper riparian and lower riparian and plains and mountains. Similarly, there is a need to develop a mechanism to settle the dispute on sharing of water stream and basin. The commission needs to build a basis for the distribution. As a commission, it has a familiar role. The commission now is focusing on revenue sharing only. However bigger issues include river diversion from one province to another, source of water, how to share the stones and quarries, what the authority of upper state and deposit is, how can we minimize damage and how to settle these issues.