KATHMANDU, April 19: The National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) has raised questions over transparency in the foreign aid funds for post-earthquake reconstruction being spent through INGOs handpicked by some donor agencies.
Senior officials at NRA said that some donors including Norwegian Aid, USAid, Swiss Aid and DFID have been carrying out various reconstructions-related projects on their own through their 'favored INGOs' and without following the government budgetary system. As per NRA guidelines, all donors who have pledged reconstruction aid should follow the government budgetary system and spend funds through the NRA.
Republica on Monday ran a story about some donor agencies which were yet to provide the aid they pledged . Some of these donors had skipped a meeting organized by NRA on Monday.
Responding to the news story, the Norwegian embassy, which also skipped the meeting, said the Norwegian government had never pledged any funds through NRA. In a statement sent to NRA, Norwegian Ambassador to Nepal Lasse Bjorn Johannessen informed that his government, which had announced to provide USD 29.5 million, has already spent USD 36.5 million on the reconstruction. According to NRA, Norway had pledged USD 15,965,500.
However, Bhisma Bhusal, chief of foreign aid coordination section at NRA, refuted the ambassador's claims.
“The Norwegian government had pledged that it would provide aid through government channels. But later, it was found that Norway was spending reconstruction aid through I/NGOs on various programs without our consent. In saying the amount was not pledged through NRA, it is clear Norway is trying to shy away from its commitment,” Bhusal said.
Bhusal said NRA was concered about transparency and accountability in the aid being spent by some donors through handpicked I/NGOs on non-budgetary programs. He said it was against the guidelines. “Since Norway is also a major donor, it should have signed an agreement with NRA first and taken our prior consent for reconstruction programs,” he added.
According to Bhusal, even donors who have already agreed to channelize funds through the government have been stipulating in agreements reached with NRA to spend almost 50 percent of the pledge aid on their own.
NRA Spokesperson Yam Lal Bhusal said other donors like USAid, DFID and the Swiss government were also bypassing NRA and carrying out reconstruction programs against government guidelines.
“Looking at their reports, all we know is that they ( donors) are spending huge amounts through various INGOs. But we are left in the dark about the nature of their projects and the budget begin spent. This has raised serious questions about transparency,” he said.
“They keep raising questions about our transparency. But they are spending the money randomly, showing complete disregard for the laws and regulations,” he added.