Govt proposes new mechanism to keep eye on I/NGOs

Published On: April 14, 2018 06:20 AM NPT By: Bhadra Sharma

KATMANDU, APRIL 14: Tightening the screws on  international non-governmental organizations and foreigners,  the government has proposed a special mechanism under the Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA) to exercise oversight on their activities. It has also proposed entrusting  responsibility for such oversight to the security agencies, including the Nepal Army, requiring them to keep close tabs on  international development organizations and foreigners working in Nepal. 

"[The purpose is] to set up a special mechanism under the Ministry of Home Affairs to oversee the activities of foreign non-governmental organizations and foreigners and form such separate mechanisms in the Nepal Police, Armed Police Force, Nepal Army and National Investigation Department, or form a mechanism under the coordination of these organizations," states the proposed draft. 

The reports of such committees, according to the proposal, will be submitted to MoHA and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and  further action will be taken if these organizations are found breaching  standards set by the government. 

The proposed draft,  which is titled National Integrity Policy-2074, has also introduced several restrictive provisions for national and international non-governmental organizations, constitutional bodies and the private sector. The proposal has  provisions for deporting foreigners working in Nepal if they are found involved in working against the national interest and government policies or involved in religious conversion. 

And the accused will not be allowed to return to Nepal . It is also proposed to halt renewal of the permit of any international organization acting against the national interest or violating the existing legal and political arrangements. 

The harsh provisions are being proposed  at a time when the Oli government is reportedly preparing to bring the Social Welfare Council (SWC), the body responsible for managing and overseeing national and international non-governmental organization, under the Prime Minister's Office. Since taking charge of the government, Oli has already brought key oversight bodies including the Department of Money Laundering, Office of Attorney General and National Investigation Department under his direct supervision. The latest move is widely seen as an attempt to "centralize power in the hands of the executive head" and drastically control non-governmental organizations other than those supportive of the government. 

The SWC at the center and the district administration offices in the districts are responsible for dealing with  domestic and international non-governmental organizations. The new proposal has sought to categorize the NGOs and introduce  mandatory provisions for seeking prior consent from the Ministry of Finance before launching any project, for informing local bodies, informing the ministry about their programs within seven days of receipt of development aid, submitting any report they have prepared, and fixing overhead costs before launching a project. 

Additionally, the proposal bars NGO workers from assuming office for more than two terms and two members of the same family are strictly prohibited from taking up executive positions in the same non-governmental organization. 

The proposal has also introduced a provision for scrapping  NGOs and INGOs if they don't renew their permits within three months of the end of the fiscal year. 

Members of constitutional bodies, lawmakers and NGO workers have criticized the proposal to scrutinize the non-governmental sector although they have praised some of the provisions including  restricting foreign junkets for ministers.  They warned that the government's 'immature step' will discourage development partners from investing in Nepal. 

"If the army and police are mandated to oversee the activities of development partners this will definitely have a negative impact and there will be no working environment in Nepal. Who will agree to work under the army and police?" said Gopal Lamsal, president of NGO Federation Nepal. 

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