MUKUNDA PRASAD PAUDYAL is the Executive Director of Peace Fund Secretariat under the Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction. Close to completion of the peace process, joint secretary Paudyal spoke to NEW SPOTLIGHT on issues regarding the Fund. Excerpts:
What is the state of reconstruction initiated under the fund?
So far as reconstruction is concerned, the fund allocated major parts of its resources for the reconstruction of police buildings. Out of 650 sub-police posts, police posts and district police offices damaged during 10 years of insurgency, the Fund provided resources to reconstruct around 300 units. This is the major area of reconstruction. Other reconstruction work has been made through another project, Post-Conflict Reconstruction Project, within the Ministry and other project Development for Peace. Post conflict reconstruction project is responsible for the reconstruction of health posts, school buildings and VDCs and other infrastructures.
Do you follow any special norms to make police buildings more human rights friendly?
In the initial phase, our reconstruction approach was to make the police delivery effective and human rights friendly and the posts are closer to the community. There are homogenous constructions all over the country. There are complaints that the construction does not represent the diversity of Nepal. The donors also complained that they are location specific.
Out of 65 projects undertaken by the fund, 44 projects have already completed. The fund also provided money to hold the first CA and second CA elections. The fund also provided all the money to manage the cantonment. Reconstruction of Police units, cantonment management, first CA elections and second CA elections are regarded as most successful projects completed under the fund. Nepal Police has completed the construction as per the fund’s requirements.
There are some other projects which do not meet the target.
As the peace process is close to its end, what is the priority of the government and development partners right now?
Donors want to provide resources as software. However, the government’s priority is in hardware. Donors argue that there is the need to provide more resources to software to create a conducive environment for the sustainable peace. However, the government wants to strengthen the hardware part or reconstruction of damaged infrastructures. Donors have made it clear that they don’t want to get involved in the hardware side any more now.
What is the software side?
Software includes training and orientation programs. Donors want to get involved in awareness raising programs, social harmony and long-term peace building through these activities.
When I took charge of the Fund, I was wondering why we should not use this money to build big hospitals and some bridges in the west of Karnali river. I have proposed investment of the money in those sectors. However, the donors declined it. Donors argue that their priority is sustainable peace building though the investment in social sectors. After a series of discussions, I convinced the donors to write a sentence to give some priority for reconstruction in our strategy paper. Nepal’s development partners agreed to add the sentence that the financing for infrastructure is carefully selected.
Did not the fund support the reconstruction of buildings in the first phase?
The Fund also supported to build two bridges in the past. One bridge was in Surkhet, near Maoist Cantonment known as Chingad Project- all weather access road and bridge project. They were supposed to construct two bridges. Till the cantonment was operational, the pace of construction went well. However, the construction work stopped following the dismantling of cantonment. The project is left incomplete now. The money has already been sanctioned to concerned department. I recently made an inspection tour and asked the concerned contractor and district authorities about the project. In eight years time, we have completed 15.
We have also supported construction of the extension building in Dharan B.P. Koirala medical hospital. The fund provided 90 million rupees to make rehabilitation buildings for the victims of conflict. Though the building was constructed a long time back, we have just recently handed it over to the hospital. The problem with the project is that there was a crisis of ownership. This rehabilitation center is for Conflict Affected Population (CAP). However, they don’t know the number of CAPs in the area. After my discussions with the hospital authority, the hospital summoned the meeting of District Peace Committees of 16 districts to make the rehabilitation center operational. There were 1100 conflict victims who neede the service from the center. Following the discussions with the authority, the fund agreed to provide running cost for one year. Now I received a project. There is confusion over the ownership.
At this last stage, USAID and European Union are the only two development partners supporting the fund. We are in the winding up phase -- the project will wind up in July, 2017. We are not in the process of launching a fresh program. We have now 1 billion Nepalese rupees left with the fund. Due to earthquake, the government reduced the budget to the fund. There are over 20 projects which are incomplete.
What are the challenges?
There are a few challenges. One of the major challenges is lack of ownership. There was a widespread feeling that the money allocated by the Fund is not government’s money and money provided by donors. Although government shares in the fund make up over 60 percent and donor’s contribution is just 40 percent, the feeling is that this is the donor’s project. Peace Fund Secretariat is taken as an alien institution. Nobody takes ownership. Police is the only institution which took the complete ownership and they utilized the money very properly, completing all the projects. Unlike government’s regular budget, which freezes at the end of fiscal year, Fund’s money remains intact. Thus, the priority of all the government’s institutions is on the government’s annual budget rather than fund’s resources.
Initially, the fund cleared all the money after signing the contract. I have changed that modality of working and now we are allocating the budget on settlement basis.
Other problem is the lack of capability of our ministries to spend the money. Frequent transfers of the officials are other problems. These are the reasons behind the failure of projects.
Despite completing the other parts, the transitional justice, major portion of Peace Treaty, has just started with the composition of Disappearance Commission and Truth and Reconciliation Commission. How do you see the role of Fund?
Nepal’s development partners have expressed their reservation over the recently formed commissions saying that they do not meet the international practices and standards. We held several rounds of meeting seeking their support to the commissions. However, donors have declined to provide any support to transitional justice in the current modalities. As per our agreement, the fund cannot provide any support to the two commissions. According to our agreement, we cannot spend any money from the fund’s basket.
The fund used to be a bigger institution in early days with over Rs. 24 billion budget. Now it is just over Rs. 1.5 billion. The fund provided 7 billion rupees to hold the two CA elections. Similarly, a large chunk of money was spent for cantonment management. The fund provided 3 billion rupees to Nepal Police. The fund also supported Nepal Army and Nepal Police to make the system gender friendly as a dividend of peace. We also supported to launch human rights training to women police and army personnel.
How do you see the donors' role?
In general, our relations are perfect but in some cases they also make efforts to micromanage the affairs, including hiring consultants and other employees. There was distrust between us.