Thursday, April 4, 2019

Army to build houses for tornado-hit

The cabinet meeting today decided to assign the Nepali Army to rebuild the houses of tornado-hit victims – of Bara and Parsa in the southern plains – based on the government’s People’s Housing Programme model, a home with four rooms including a kitchen. According to official figures, around 1,400 houses were damaged in the disaster that left 28 people dead.
Though the government has claimed that reconstruction assignment to Army will help finish rebuilding damaged houses before monsoon, the move has drawn flak as the national defence force has been involved more into development works. Apart from involvement in development activities lately, Nepal Army has been criticisised for increasing its commercial activities. The Nepal Army is also looking for legal leverage for investment in profit-making ventures through the amendment in the existing Act. The Army Act 2006 puts legal barriers for it to invest as a promoter, which has stopped it from pouring money in hydropower, banks and other business.
Though, Nepal Army could be ustilised for emergency, the tradition of involving Army in regular business will not only make the regular government mechanism redundant and demoralise them but also hit the the financial discipline and transparency. Since the Army does not fall under the jurisdiction of oversight agencies like the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA), it could not ensure accountability, transparency and financial discipline.
The government has formed a five-member committee led by chief secretary of Province 2 to facilitate the reconstruction process. "The committee includes chief district officers (CDO) of Bara and Parsa and representatives from the Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Urban Development," said government spokesperson and minister of Communications and Information Technology Gokul Baskota.
The government claimed that the decision was taken considering the fact that it is important to complete the reconstruction as soon as possible given the monsoon is around the corner.
Province 2 chief minister Lalbabu Raut defended the federal government move. "The provincial government or local levels executing the reconstruction will result in delays due to their compulsion to follow due procedures like Public Procurement Act," he said, adding that this is an emergency situation. "Since it is very important to ensure shelter for the affected people before monsoon, the army has the expertise and human resources needed to complete the task on time."
He also said that the provincial government will arrange necessary funds from the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund and other sources.

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