KATHMANDU, Oct 20: At a time when everyone and every institution is obliged to obey the law of the land, two state bodies are trading blame for flouting the law.
The Social Welfare Council (SWC) accuses the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare (MoWCSW) of not following the law while distributing funds to non-governmental organisations. At the same time, the ministry has accused the SWC of being ultra-autonomous and acting above the law.
There are some 100,000 NGOs across Nepal. The total number of NGOs affiliated with the SWC is around 44,000. And the total number of INGOs, which are registered with the SWC, is 254. However, only about 20,000 of these are active, according to the SWC. “We are also unaware of the existence of many of the NGOs, what they are doing and how they function,” said SWC officials.
MoWCSW provides grants of some Rs 250 million annually to the NGOs. The Social Welfare Act and laws on registration of NGOs require transparency over funds and whether these are provided by the government or by foreign donors. But the rules and regulations are not clear. The Act was amended in 1994 but it is still not adequate for properly monitoring the NGOs.
None of the state bodies is monitoring and evaluating their activities, and their legal status. “There is no law to closely regulate their registration, renewal and operations,” the officials admitted. Hari Tiwari, acting director at SWC, said that the ministry distributes funds to the NGOs without informing the SWC as required by the regulations.
MoWCSW under secretary Bharat Raj Sharma said the ministry does not need to consult anybody to provide grants to NGOs. “Not all the NGOs are registered with the Social Welfare Council; they are registered at the District Development Committee instead,” said Tiwari, adding, “The number of NGOs that are active in Nepal is around 20,000 and we have not been able to monitor them closely due to shortage of manpower.” They monitor more than 100 NGOs annually and have started maintaining software data on them, he further said. Interestingly, the SWC has a staff of about 200 including more than three dozens at officer level.
Prior to the restoration of democracy the number of NGOs was only 250. There was a dramatic increase in the number of NGOs after the CPN-UML government came into office in 1994. UML-affiliated NGOs comprise about 80 percent of the total. “There is weak monitoring and cooperation from the government regarding NGOs,” said Gopal Lamsal, chairperson of the NGO Federation of Nepal.