|Aid Transparency in Nepal|
(This is the article published in the website of aidinfo. You may visit the website of aidinfo or read it as below)
In the second of our series of blogs on Nepal, Hum Prasad Bhandari of NGO Federation of Nepal shares his thoughts on the potential of aid transparency and the challenges faced by NGOs and civil society organisations.
Foreign aid plays an important role in Nepal’s development. According to the 2010-11 Development Cooperation Report, foreign aid represents 20% of the national budget. On-budget aid is said to be three-quarter of the total aid that comes to Nepal. However, information on aid is poor in Nepal since it lacks transparency, coordinating agency and the systematic collection of data and publication. In addition, information that is available is often not accessible to NGOs and there is a need for capacity development.
The Ministry of Finance has Foreign Aid Coordination Division to oversee the Government’s activities in the area of aid coordination, harmonization and alignment. Within the Ministry, Aid Management Platform (AMP), the online information system, has been operationalised, but is not publicly available. Development partners are given access and requested to report their information on aid but the process is still in the initial stages. Presently, all the donors and Ministries and only 13 NGOs are given access to the database. Likewise, the Social Welfare Council (SWC) is responsible for overseeing and managing the domestic and international non-governmental organisations (NGO’s and INGO’s respectively). Although not mandatory, most of the NGOs and INGOs get their projects endorsed and approved from SWC. In this context, SWC is likely to collect a lot of information on aid. Since AMP and SWC systems lack coordination, any integrated and complete information on aid is unavailable in Nepal.
Most of the development partners, government agencies and NGOs claim to have publicised their information relating to aid. However, the information, if publicized at all, lays scattered, disintegrated and without standard formats. In this case, searching for complete and reliable information on aid is futile. Against this backdrop, NGO Federation of Nepal, with financial support from aidinfo, made an attempt to assess the availability and need of aid information, and the incentives and challenges to providing aid information to the NGOs in Nepal. The pilot study was carried out from December 2011 to May 2012.
The study has been insightful in understanding—from the perspective of NGOs—the availability of information on aid in Nepal. The NGOs were found lacking awareness about the transparency of aid. More than 90% of NGOs in Nepal seem to have come into existence only after the democratic political change in 1990. The fact that about one-third of the NGOs started their work with foreign aid also signifies that Nepalese NGOs largely depend on foreign aid and seek foreign aid because they lack internal resources. The NGOs largely depend on newspapers, followed by websites, for any information on aid. Although the information found in the newspapers is incomplete, most of them lack access to the internet and may not be fluent in English, which is the language used by almost all the web sources.
In terms of the accessibility and availability of information on aid, 89% of the NGO responded that available information is inadequate. While more than half of them find the information partially useful, only 41% of them find it useful. The responses show that aid information may be useful to the NGOs to find out the achievements, accountability, and objectives of aid, the eligibility of organisations for support, the types of support available and contact details of the funding agencies.
Nepal lacks coordinated efforts and agencies to make aid information transparent. While AMP has initiated an online database system, it needs close coordination with SWC to include more information of NGOs and INGOs. AMP also needs to be publicly available in order to encourage the voluntary input of information and to make it publicly accessible. It is indeed necessary that the data on aid is made transparent in an integrated and open format, or to some international standard like the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI). While the respondents preferred the integrated information coordinated by some agencies such as SWC, government or any NGO, they also suggested that the concerned agencies also make the information available.
When it comes to the transparency of the aid information of the NGOs themselves, it is still in the basic level and format. They publish information through some social audits and bulletins but they lack a standard format and NGOs do not see any advantages in doing so. Transparency of aid, programs and budgets appear to be crucial in increasing their credibility and these are directly linked to the aid transparency with donors, INGOs and government and will contribute to improving misconception that people have about the NGO’s.
Standardised information would be an ideal. For the time being, Ministry of Finance, SWC and District Development Committee can be the coordinating agencies for aid information. The Ministry can coordinate for the on-budget aid and SWC may coordinate for the NGOs, INGOs and off-budget aid. It is indeed important to consider that the available data is in open format such as IATI.
Different agencies need to play their own roles to promote aid transparency and effectiveness. The Ministry can facilitate, coordinate and monitor aid. SWC must be able to integrate and manage the information of NGOs and INGOs. It is equally important that development partners are cooperative and ready to provide the relevant information and are proactively transparent and accountable. They need to follow the internationally agreed agreements and principles on aid and international development.
Likewise, the potential role for NGO Federation of Nepal is the advocacy, lobbying and monitoring on behalf of the civil society organizations (CSO’s). It can mediate dialogues and interactions among the government, development partners and CSOs/NGOs. In addition to the transparency of aid, it is equally important that NGOs/CSOs are able to access, analyze, monitor and advocate for the accountability and effectiveness of aid and aid information and that they are given the necessary capacity development to do so. Development effectiveness is vitally important, and NGO Federation of Nepal can be an appropriate platform for this purpose.
Hum Prasad Bhandari is the Information, Communication & Documentation Officer for the NGO Federation of Nepal (NFN). NFN is an umbrella organisation for NGOs in Nepal with over 5000 affiliated organisations and works to defend the autonomy of NGOs and to promote human rights, social justice and pro-poor development.
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