Jasbahadur Rai of Dipsung, Khotang, who is blind, waited throughout 2009-2010 to receive his annual disability stipend. As the fiscal year came to an end, VDC secretary Krishna Prasad Acharya simply told the locals that the government had once again failed to supply funds and returned promptly to district headquarters in Diktel.
In reality, Acharya just pocketed Rs 30,000 meant to be distributed to 15 people with disabilities. He invented details of three imaginary 'helpless' people and collected a further Rs 15,000. Acharya even managed to obtain an inflated travel allowance worth Rs 52,000 for 10 field visits when he visited Dipsung only three times that year.
"He took my salary by creating a fake receipt," says Khetraj Adhikari, who was promised Rs 25,000 in salary to develop a budget for a development programme in Dipsung.
Acharya, who is currently the secretary of Kataharey VDC, has embezzled up to Rs 344,000 by making fake receipts for the following: Rs 100,000 as disability stipends and computer funds, Rs 60,000 for the construction of a child-development centre, Rs 70,000 to develop a village profile, Rs 15,000 as economic assistance stipends, Rs 25,000 as administrative costs, Rs 20,000 to construct a telecommunications tower, and Rs 8,000 as salary to VDC employees.
"In the absence of elected representatives, entire VDCs have fallen into the pockets of secretaries and nobody has a clue what is happening," admits Gunaraj Timsina, former chairperson of Ward No 9 in Dipsung.
Consumer-committee chairpersons are no better. As chairperson of Sungkhola Microhydel Project's (SMP) consumer-committee, Muktinath Timsina took Rs 50,000 to provide pipelines to farmlands of 125 families in Dipsung under the Somkhola Irrigation Project. In fact, there is no river called Somkhola anywhere around Dipsung or in neighbouring areas.
But Timsina says in his defence, "I did not pocket that money. We dug a pond, but the money ran out so we filled it back."
Timsina similarly hijacked Rs 50,000 from DDC funds three years ago in the name of SMP by creating a fake bill. Even though he had embezzled Rs 3.2 million in the last seven years, the DDC approved his fake bills. Last year, Timsina even won the support of locals for a Rs 900,000 plan to buy electricity poles for the village.
When a landslide killed 42 people 10 years ago in Dipsung, the chief district officer of Khotang, Mohan Krishna Sapkota and president of Khotang Chamber of Commerce, Khush Narayan Sainju opened relief funds under their personal bank accounts for the rehabilitation of affected communities. Rs 120,000 from the fund was given to SMP. Now Timsina says he doesn't even remember where that money went.
Dipsung got its first taste of corruption when the then VDC chairman Chudamani Bhattarai distributed Rs 8,000 each to ward-chairs 13 years ago. Of the Rs 2.6 million allocated for Dipsung that year, Rs 1.7 disappeared through fraud.
Gopal Rai of the Nepali Congress is also known to have bagged Rs 30,000 for an irrigation project without turning a stone. Similarly, Hem Kumar Rai received Rs 185,000 in three years for building a roof for a secondary school but nothing was done. Ashok Rai, who is registered as the chairman of the management committee of another school, has Rs 131,000 unaccounted for but says, "The signature on that receipt is not even mine."
Man Bahadur BK, the only literate Dalit in Dipsung, is the main beneficiary of the budget provided for Dalits. Like others, he also created a fake bill for buying a machine from a store in Diktel. The owner was Man Bahadur's relative and could not refuse his request.
Of the Rs 11.7 million allocated to Dipsung in the past 18 years, up to Rs 4.5 million has been hijacked by frauds and Dipsung has turned into a breeding ground for corruption.
Centre of Investigative Journalism