I made a comment in my previous article on Spotlight, “Response Architecture” that the organizational structure of the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA)was highly political and bureaucratic. This would make the NRA less efficient. I wish my comment was proved to be wrong, but the NRA is getting more bureaucratic than I thought. Not learning from the past mistakes and exercising too much power will be a disaster.
The reconstruction work still remains seriously affected and people are still living in temporary shelters as the National Reconstruction has asked all organizations to refrain from carrying out any reconstruction-related work without its permission. In a move to enforce a one-door policy for reconstruction activities, the NRA has said that it has decided to bring all the non-governmental organizations involved in reconstruction related work within the jurisdiction of NRA so as to effectively channel the aids, avoid duplication and ensure that all the reconstruction-related work meet the standards set by the government. It sounds good as long as the NRA facilitates the work of non-governmental actors, but it appears that the NRA is moving towards a command and control mode as well as creating parallel structures on the ground.
I remember the government once announced that it would procure all the CGI sheets, not the I/NGOs. That did not work. The DDRCs once also announced that the supporting agencies deposit relief materials at DDCs and they would manage. That did not work. Later, the government clarified that all they wanted was to help coordinate and not to control.
Everyone was happy when the NRA was established, sad when it was dissolved and again happy when it was reestablished. People had expectations that the NRA would now move things swiftly and it will oversee the reconstruction and rehabilitation works. It means the NRA will: (i) prepare a coherent plan based on Post Disaster Needs Assessment that was already presented to Donor Conference on July 25, 2015; (ii) mobilize local authorities and line agencies with fast-track additional budgets as per their sectoral plans; (iii) facilitate the work of I/NGOs; and (iv) monitor for quality and accountability.
I repeat, the very reason the NRA was created is to oversee reconstruction and rehabilitation works, not to create bottleneck in the name of one-door policy. Honestly, one-door policy does not work if it means doing all by a single entity. This is not the mandate of the NRA.
I am worried to see that the NRA is creating parallel structure at the center and the districts. Like in the past, parallel structure will create overlapping authority and confusions. It will cause the entire process to slow down. Let the technical ministries, departments, line agencies and established structures do their work under the overall coordination of the NRA. Let their capacity be strengthened as they move along. Reconstruction and rehabilitation are part of long-term recovery and development. So it make sense that the existing government structures take the front-seats in their respective sectors and they manage funds under fast-track mode with the assistance of the NRA. No doubt, we need to strengthen measures for quality, transparency and accountability. But I cannot imagine that the NRA is involved in channeling the funds.
We need immediate and better clarity in permanent housing policies, particularly the modalities, external support, displacement and settlement, approvals and government subsidies and deductions. I strongly suggest that the NRA does not directly get into detailed assessments and approvals in the name of meetings standards, rather it is involved in crafting and clarifying use-friendly policies. There are other better placed institutions to do such works. Let theline agencies under the DDC/DDRC/DUDBChandle entire assessment and approval works of I/NGOs.
We need to remove central bureaucracies as much as possible, and expedite reconstruction and rehabilitation works. One-door policy as conceptualized will not only delay but stop the work on the ground. Everyone should take responsibility, more by the government and government created entities, that the people do not suffer again.
Dr. Prabin Manandhar is an expert of international development. Currently, he is working as Country Director of The Lutheran World Federation. He is also a visiting faculty at the Kathmandu University. He can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org