After holding files of more than 60 development projects for about nine months, the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare is said to have begun the process of their clearance. But the delay has already done the damage to Nepal at the international level sending a message that it is an uncertain place to work.
Sources said the ministry will start the process of clearance of the files but the situation is still unpredictable. According to Association of International Non-governmental Organisations (AIN), working areas of AIN members cover all 75 districts and ecological regions and the delay the implementation of these projects will affect the livelihood of poor people.
Founded in 1995, AIN’s role is that of an umbrella organization of 97 INGOs out of 191 INGOs registered with the Social Welfare Council.
Nepal’s paradox is that when such a large number of development projects worth billion of rupees have been pending at the ministry, Prime Minister Jhalanath Khanal demanded more aid from rich countries for the development projects at the summit of Least Developed Countries in Turkey’s capital Istanbul.
At a time when the government is unable to allocate necessary budget in development sectors and private sector is yet to develop the capability to invest in the development projects, INGOs are filling the gap by bringing resources to launch development projects targeting poverty alleviation.
“AIN members contribute approximately not less than 10 billion rupees annually. This is 6 percent of the development budget, 12 percent of foreign aid, 15 percent of foreign grants and 45 percent of foreign loans and 18 percent of deficit budget for the current fiscal year 2066/067,” said Dr. Shibesh C. Regmi, vice president, Asia World Neighbours and member of AIN presenting his paper at an interaction.
In its recent interactions between members of Association of International Non-Governmental Organisations (AIN) and various stake holders including leaders of political parties, media persons, government officials, and social welfare council, both the sides tried to inform about the present state.
AIN members expressed serious concern over the pending agreements of 36 International Non-Governmental Organisations (INGOs) working in Nepal. They argued that a heavy impact was arising from the delay to approve the projects.
INGOs work with almost all key themes and issues, including health, disaster management, peace and reconciliation, climate change, food security, education, health care, livelihood and agriculture.
Although the Social Welfare Council Act clearly gives mandate to the council to make agreement and approve the project proposals submitted by INGOs, a cabinet decision has restricted the council jurisdiction and shifted final authority to the ministry. This cabinet decision authorizes the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare as the final authority to approve the projects.
According the Social Welfare Council Act any international social organization or person making agreement upon obtaining approval to function shall have to submit project proposal, as prescribed by the committee along with the detail description of the projects to the council. Any social organization, which desires to obtain financial assistance, shall have to make application as prescribed by the committee, along with letter of acceptance of the foreign organization providing assistance.
The council shall put the project proposal submitted at the meeting of the project evaluation sub-committee and grant approval within 45 days by amending and altering it, if required.
“INGOs are experiencing unusually prolonged waiting periods. These delays are incurred at the General Agreement level as well as Project Agreement level and the vast majority of agreements are held at the Project Approval and Facilitation Committee,” said Achyut Luitel, AIN chair.
Political leaders and government officials blame INGOs working in unaccountable manners. “There is the need to make clear guidelines and policies so that the government can monitor INGOs activities and their expenditures in Nepal,” said Sarbadev Ojha, former minister of Women, Children and Social Welfare, who was said to be responsible for holding the files. “There has been rampant misuse of money in the last few years and there is the need to have a strict monitoring.”
According to experts, INGOs operate under stringent accountability and other parameters. The programs/ projects undergo multiple monitoring and evaluation, and auditing. Besides, the international monitoring and evaluation, usually headquarters of INGOs and donors who fund INGOs projects, conduct their own evaluation. Additionally, the focal government body of the government of Nepal also conducts its own monitoring and evaluation of the projects implemented by INGOs.
Although all INGOs have accepted and are adhering to the regulations that request that projects be discussed and endorsed by District Development Committees (DDCs) prior to submission to the Social Welfare Council, the ministry is currently holding them without citing any reasons.
“Delays in approving projects have extremely serious consequences which include but are not limited to serious repercussions on our programmes and the people we serve: lack of protection, lack of access to life-saving services that could result in injuries, life-long disabilities or even death,” said an official at AIN.
Due to delay in the agreement, the foreign experts working in these INGOs are facing problems as their visas are expiring and cannot be renewed prior to the approval of the agreements.
As the government organizations are spending more time shaping political and country’s structures, INGOs are taking the left out agenda as per aspirations of a large number Nepal’s excluded, oppressed and poor population.