1-7 March 2013 #645

Plundering the peace, Kantipur

Editorial, 24 February

A Centre for Investigative Journalism report in this newspaper has noted that the state has so far spent Rs 29 billion on reconstruction of infrastructure destroyed during the war and that the total will reach Rs 37 billion. Aside from this huge amount allocated for reconstruction, the report bares blatant irregularities in spending the amount, including in rebuilding facilities that were never destroyed. A Peace Ministry task force has shown that the amounts have been spent on the recommendation of district peace committees to reconstruct physical infrastructure that weren’t destroyed during the war. This has exposed the lack of transparency and unaccountable decision-making among politicians and the bureaucracy.

The government has so far funded the reconstruction of 2,890 facilities that were destroyed during the war, or were destroyed only in paper. Another 6,026 facilities are yet to be rebuilt or repaired. The task force set up by the government to make an inventory of individuals, families, and infrastructure affected by the war had drawn up a list of only 3,647 damaged facilities. But this task force was accused of not having done its job properly and another task force drew up a total of 8,916 facilities damaged and destroyed during the war. The fact that this new tally was approved and money released without double-checking hints at collusion of everyone from the local level to the ministry, and a ‘I-scratch-your-back-you-scratch-mine’ tendency.

There is an even more sensitive revelation in the report about the state of damaged police buildings. During the war, 768 police stations were blown up or damaged and the government has repaired only about 100 of them. It is unacceptable that while actually damaged police stations haven’t yet been repaired and rebuilt, money has been stolen to rebuild buildings that didn’t even exist.

During the conflict, the Maoists were often criticised for looting banks and terrorising the people. But their lack of transparency with regards to money has continued into peacetime. In fact, the financial irregularities have got worse and Maoists ministers themselves are responsible. There have been public exposes of massive fraud and corruption in the integration and rehabilitation of former guerrillas, but there has been no investigation. Voices have been raised even by Maoist cadre themselves, but the leadership has no credible explanation as to where all that money went. The billions that have been embezzled in the name of peace must be investigated.

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