KATHMANDU, Feb 14: In a bid to make the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) autonomous, the government has finally initiated the process to formulate modality to mobilize the money collected in the authority's reconstruction fund.
A meeting of the NRA's steering committee headed by the prime minister on Monday formed a five-member high-level committee under the leadership of chief secretary Som Lal Subedi to prepare a draft of operational modality framework for mobilizing the NRA fund within seven days.
The fund was established over a year ago and has around Rs 21 billion in it but has remained defunct in lack of an operational modality.
The authority would be able to carry out its activities more autonomously and bypass procedural delays in the decision-making process if the reconstruction fund is immediately activated, officials said.
The fund allows the executive committee of the NRA to spend the money in the reconstruction works as needed, there will be no need to seek approval from the Ministry of Finance, and the money under the fund does not freeze.
A press statement issued by the NRA following the meeting states that the steering committee will make another decision on the reconstruction fund after reviewing the framework to be submitted by the chief secretary. Secretaries of NRA, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Law and Justice, and Office of the Auditor General have been appointed as other four members of the committee.
"The steering committee has initiated the process to activate the fund. Activation of the fund can be instrumental in expediting the delayed tasks of reconstruction and rehabilitation," NRA spokesperson Yam Lal Subedi said.
Last week, speaking in the Public Accounts Committee of parliament, NRA secretary Sanjay Sharma had said that due to the delay in activating the fund, NRA has been forced to seek approval from the Ministry of Finance for implementing each and every plan and the process takes time, causing delay in the reconstruction efforts. He had said that the procedural delay was also one of the key factors for the authority's inability to make capital expenditure.
Later, the committee directed the Office of Prime Minister and Ministry of Finance to immediately establish reconstruction fund, release the reconstruction budget from the fund and allow the authority to expedite the reconstruction and rehabilitation works.
Officials of NRA said the steering committee's decision to form the high-level committee was in line with the parliamentary committee's direction.
Similarly, the steering committee also decided to direct the ministry of finance to release sufficient budget to the NRA to carry out survey of the earthquake victims whose houses were damaged by the 2015 earthquakes but whose names have been left out from the grants distribution list. Similarly, the NRA steering committee has asked the NRA executive committee to table a proposal in the cabinet to hire staff on contract basis for operation of various reconstructions-related projects and programs.