19 November 2016: Nepal is a fantastic place to fall ill. The government hands out so much cash that you can not only see a doctor but sometimes also embark on a foreign junket, which, of course, unfortunately, depends on how important you politically are.
Amid reports of shameless misuse of the impoverished nation’s limited resources and rising public anger, a media report on Saturday detailed the largesse of a handful of political elites since they drove ex-King Gyanendra Shah out of Narayanhiti Palace.
Nine governments in ten years since the 2006 Democracy Movement have offered over Rs 4 billion in “financial assistance” and “medical expenses” to political activists and leaders, a report by journalist Surendra Poudel revealed today.
A study of the figures sourced from the country’s finance ministry shows there has been a 766% increase in these largely unaccounted for donations since the financial year 2006/07 when only Rs 30 million was dispensed. The figure rose astronomically to Rs 260 million in financial year 2015/16, Nagarik Dainink claimed on November 19.
All cash donations were illegal in that they were made against the edict of the Legislature Parliament’s Finance Committee, the report suggested. Legally, only Rs 1.5 can be awarded in case of VIPs and a maximum of Rs 100,000 in case of ordinary citizens with life-threatening illnesses. Political leaders, however, have made farce of such provisions as they release tens of millions for the same person.
“There are two aspects to the distribution of funds to party activists and leaders – medical expenses and financial assistance. The government has been misusing tens of millions of rupees every year in the name of financial assistance and medical expenses,” Prakash Jwala, the chairman of the Finance Committee was quoted as saying by the daily.
He also confirmed that only a tiny portion of the released funds reached real patients or victims while the rest was gobbled up by political party leaders and their cronies with top connections.
Despite protests, the government is in no mood to change its ways. It has, instead, set aside Rs 250 million for financial year 2016/17 out of which Rs 60 million has already been distributed. Former foreign minister and Nepali Congress leader Sujata Koirala was given Rs 5 million (approximately $60,000) as recently as last week. Her supporters had originally demanded a whopping Rs 10 million.
Nepal does have a mechanism to provide financial assistance to “distinguished” and “disadvantaged” people but it appears the process is never followed.
According to existing policies, the government can release funds on recommendation of the Medical Board directly to the hospital in case of local treatment or through Nepal embassies in case of treatments being undertaken in foreign countries. However, the system is never followed, the report said, as political activists and leaders collect their share directly from the government.
A “source” within the finance ministry told Nagarik that his office cannot withhold any payments once signed by the Council of Ministers. Whatever is passed is automatically released without cross-examination, he further said.
The highlight has been financial year 2014/15 when the government made payments of over Rs 2.5 billion.