Talks further delay integrity policy draft

- Post Report, Kathmandu

Oct 12, 2018-

A fresh round of consultations further delays the proposed National Integrity Policy, one of the major controversial policy tasks of the present government, first initiated by Sher Bahadur Deuba’s government.

Two senior officials at the Prime Minister Office (PMO) told the Post that after wide spread criticism from various quarters, the initial draft was amended and handed over to Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli. The PM was to take a final call on the draft and prepare the law.

Similarly, another round of consultation among officials at the PMO, Foreign and Finance Secretaries is yet to take place.

Four independent experts, appointed by the UN Human Rights Council, had expressed their concerns on the limitations of the proposed draft.

Chief Secretary Lok Darshan Regmi has urged officials to take the opinions of finance and foreign secretaries before finalising the draft.

We are unable to get appointments with the two secretaries to discuss the issues raised by four independent experts, said the PMO secretary.

An official working on the draft proposal said, we shall revise the draft after we discuss with them. We are not sure when we would receive the final approval from the political leaders.

Second, after internal consultations, we shall mull it again with representatives of donors, NGOs and INGOs before giving it final shape and getting the Cabinet’s approval.

After Cabinet’s approval, the policy will get shape as new law that has some stringent measures on financial disciplines.

The four UN independent experts forwarded a letter to the Government of Nepal through Nepal’s Geneva based mission, on the definition and reporting requirements; restriction of scope of activities; and access to funding.   

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

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

The 13-point integrity policy on NGOs and 25 issues concerning INGOs, await final approval from the Cabinet whose draft is with the PM. We have yet to receive feedback from the PM, officials claimed.

Soon after the release of the draft, NOGs and INGOs working in Nepal voiced their apprehensions to the PMO.

Although they have submitted their suggestions, they are applying pressure on government to amend it and make it more flexible so that they can work in Nepal without any problem. The stakeholders await the government’s final text that is agreeable to all.

It is not a priority as it was before, said one senior official at the PMO.  One round of discussion took place at a meeting of government secretaries led by the Chief Secretary.

Then the meeting suggested accommodating the concerns raised by UN experts and it was agreed to take feedback from finance and foreign secretaries.

Compiling suggestions received from various stakeholders, a panel led by the PMO Secretary Kedar Bahadur Adhikari has already made some changes to the draft and forwarded it to the PM.

Initially, the government had hastened finalising the text to get Cabinet’s approval at the earliest. Later, the pace slowed after widespread criticism from the stakeholders.

Over 100 registered INGOs are currently working in Nepal while the number of NGOs working in Nepal is over 20,000. These bodies have given jobs to thousands of people.

The draft policy proposes 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 to limit INGOs’ ability to recruit foreign nationals and stressed the number of foreign nationals allowed to work should be fixed. The NIP would also bar foreign nationals employed by INGOs to work for more than three years.

The INGOs shall send their reports to their respective headquarters after the consent of the Government of Nepal. INGOs should not spend specified amounts under consultants, administrative, logistic and salaries headings.

The NIP says the Finance Ministry should approve the annual budget and programmes of the NGOs. An organisation’s taxable expenses should be brought under the tax ambit, and it should submit audited financial reports. On the part of registration and renewal of NGOs, the proposed process is complicated.

The draft policy document classifies NGOs into two categories: those receiving foreign assistance and those who do not. The NGOs reject this provision.

“We are concerned the authorities may attempt to control and interfere in the composition of associations and limit their independence and their diversity, and therefore the quality and efficiency of their work,” the UN rapporteurs stated in their note to the government. They urged Nepal authorities to ensure full compliance of domestic legislation with international human rights norms and standards, in particular reversing or revoking the legislative provisions and other measures that impose undue limitations on freedom.

Published: 12-10-2018 07:44

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