Integrity policy gathers dust at PM’s Office

- ANIL GIRI, Kathmandu

Dec 29, 2018-

The much hyped National Integrity Policy is gathering dust at the Prime Minister’s Office after a face-off between government agencies and the donor community and non-government organisations working in Nepal.

An aide to Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and a secretary at the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) confirmed that the proposed draft was sitting idle as “no one cares about it”.

After several rounds of consultation with the representatives of INGOs and NGOs based in Nepal, the PMO discussed the draft with senior bureaucrats and submitted it to the prime minister in October. However, the document has not moved anywhere—for Cabinet approval or for amendment.

After widespread criticism, the initial draft was amended and handed over to Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli to decide if it should move forward or be withdrawn.

Four independent experts, appointed by the UN Human Rights Council, had also expressed reservations over the limitations of the proposed draft. They forwarded a letter to the government through Nepal’s Geneva-based mission, stating concerns over definitions and reporting requirements; restriction of scope of activities; and access to funding. The organisations working in Nepal are required to report to the government annually on their financial transactions, tasks they are undertaking and the scope of their works.

NGOs, INGOs working in Nepal and the four experts have already submitted their concerns and suggestions to the PMO. They have urged the government to amend some articles of the draft policy before introducing it.

After pressure from the stakeholders, the government agreed to assess the concerns raised by the UN representatives, donors and NGOs.

Officials said they were yet to receive feedback from the prime minister on the 13-point integrity policy on NGOs and 25 issues concerning INGOs.

Soon after the release of the draft, NGOs and INGOs working in Nepal voiced their apprehensions to the PMO. Although they have submitted their suggestions, they are pressing the government to amend it and make it more flexible so that they can work in Nepal without hassles.

In a brief conversation with the Post, Rajan Bhattarai, foreign relations adviser to Prime Minister Oli, said its status remains unknown. “There was one draft but we don’t know about its execution and even status.” 

Members of the NGO community also appear confident that the policy won’t get legal status. “Our impression is that it won’t be implemented any time soon due to a series of protests from different quarters,” said Gopal Lamsal, outgoing chairman of the NGO Federation of Nepal.

A regular secretary-level meeting headed by Chief Secretary Lokdarshan Regmi discussed the policy draft earlier and decided to seek the opinion of finance and foreign secretaries before finalising it.

It was planned then to revise the document with inputs. After internal consultations, discussion with the representatives of donors, NGOs and INGOs was planned before giving the document its final shape for Cabinet approval.

A panel led by PMO Secretary Kedar Bahadur Adhikari has made some changes to the draft incorporating the suggestions and forwarded it to the prime minister.

Initially, the government worked on finalising the text for the Cabinet to approve it without delay. The pace slowed after fierce criticism from the stakeholders.

More than 100 registered INGOs are currently working in Nepal while the number of NGOs is over 20,000. The organisations employ thousands of people. The draft policy proposes that INGOs working in Nepal should not promote religious activities and they should not work against Nepal’s interests, cultural and social harmony.

It also proposed a limit to INGOs’ ability to recruit foreign nationals and stressed fixing the number of foreigners allowed to work for them. The policy would also bar foreign nationals employed by INGOs from working for more than three years in Nepal.

INGOs would be required to send their reports to their respective headquarters only with consent from the government of Nepal. The integrity policy said the Finance Ministry should approve the annual budget and programmes of the NGOs.

The draft policy classified NGOs into two categories: those receiving foreign assistance and those that do not. NGOs rejected this plan.

Published: 29-12-2018 08:18

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