KATHMANDU, March 16: Women and Social Committee under the House of Representatives (HoR) has launched a probe into alleged corruption at the Nepal Red Cross Society (NRCS).
The committee decided to launch the probe into the alleged embezzlement at the NRCS acting on a number of complaints, according to committee member Nirudevi Pal.
“We have held a series of discussions with concerned stakeholders. However, we are facing a serious problem as there is no clear legal provision to regulate the international organizations based in Kathmandu,” she added.
Anarchy has increased at the international organization established for social service owing to Nepal’s specific law based on the Geneva Convention, Pal told the media persons after having a discussion with the Red Cross leadership on Monday.
According to Pal, Nepal lacks required mechanism to monitor, evaluate and regulate Red Cross although it is registered at the District Administration Office, Kathmandu and Social Welfare Council. “How can we regulate it while General Auditor can’t audit its accounts?” she wondered. “At the same time, we don’t have provision of monitoring its activities.”
She stressed the need for formulating a separate law in a bid to regulate all the international organizations.
The house panel enquired the Red Cross President Sanjiv Thapa based on the complaints it received from various corners. He was asked about details of expenditure, total amount received so far by Red Cross and status of audit.
Moreover, questions on unfair procurement process and failure of the organization on clearing the taxes as per the law. In response, President Thapa, however, claimed that they had kept all the records of received grants as well as auditing was done. “I would be ready to provide details of every sort of financial transaction even in the written form if required,” he said. On the occasion, he claimed that all the procedures were transparent, competitive-based and carried out on ceiling level.
Lately, Red Cross has been accused of misappropriating Rs 9 billion grants received from the donators for the purpose of post earthquake rescue, compensation, rehabilitation and reconstruction. With no signification work at the affected area, the donations were allegedly found to have been spent on administrative works and logistic procurement. In the complaints received by the house panel, Red Cross leadership has been accused of spending Rs. 245 million 240,000,000 only on salary and allowances of employees, foreign tours, furniture and vehicle.
Amid corruption allegations, election for new leadership has also been affected.
It is notable here that the Red Cross Working Committee led by the Chairperson Sanjeev Thapa had convened its general convention at Banepa in Kavre on August 13 while violating the instructions by the administration.
Amid the row, the working committee was revived following the interim order by the Supreme Court. However, the apex court has yet to give a final verdict regarding the case. The final hearing in this connection has been rescheduled several times.
Established fifty-seven years ago, Nepal Red Cross Society has been dragged into controversies multiple times.
In March 2018, the Asia-Pacific regional office of the International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC) had summoned NRCS Chairman Thapa and NRCS Earthquake Response Operation head Umesh Prasad Dhakal to inquire about the organization's alleged involvement in gross misuse of earthquake relief funds provided by donors. IFRC is an umbrella organization of the NRCS which provides support to the NRCS for executing projects in Nepal.
Even the Geneva-based IFRC headquarters had launched an internal investigation into the alleged corruption in NRCS.
The IFRC sought clarifications over the alleged financial irregularities in earthquake funds as well as other administrative irregularities.
In 2018, documents obtained by Republica showed NRCS had spent Rs 245 million meant for earthquake victims on administrative activities and for the purchase of various luxury items instead of channelizing the money for earthquake reconstruction and rehabilitation.
Similarly, the humanitarian body was found defying government regulations and arbitrarily spending billions of rupees without the seeking approval from the government authorities concerned.
The organization not only renewed its term by bypassing the Social Welfare Council (SWC) -- the authorized government body to oversee the non-governmental organizations operating within the country -- but it was also found to have been running 98 various projects worth Rs 5.044 billion without seeking prior approval from the government body. The SWC had stated that NRCS had been operating arbitrarily despite SWC's repeated requests to submit project details and ensure transparency.