Home National Govt in dark about work of most aid agencies in quake-hit districts

Govt in dark about work of most aid agencies in quake-hit districts


Pic. Dhruba Dangal/Republica Helped by his mother, visually-impaired Bir Bahadur BK of Sangachowk VDC-8, heads for the District Administration Office at the district headquarters, Chautara, on Wednesday to file a complaint after an aid agency allegedly did not provide him promised livelihood allowance. BK claimed that staffers of World Vision collected his family details and identification documents promising that he would be provided Rs 7,500 per month for five months, but he has not received any money yet.

Kathmandu, April 28, 2016: Numerous Nepali non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and international NGOs have poured aid into Gorkha, the epicenter of the catastrophic 7.8-magnitude earthquake of last April. The District Disaster Relief Committee (DDRC) allowed them to undertake their activities including distribution of relief materials and rehabilitation.

Some of the aid agencies have already left the district after distributing relief while others are still working for the rehabilitation of the earthquake victims. But the irony is that the government agencies in the district have no information on the total number of aid agencies active in the district and the type of rehabilitation works done by them.

NGOs and INGOs require permission from the concerned District Development Committee (DDC) to work in the district. The aid agencies have reportedly informed the DDC about their programs to seek due permission from the DDC, but they have not maintained transparency in their funds and expenditures.

“Recently, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) informed that it will provide technical assistance for rebuilding houses here. But other aid agencies have not informed me on their activities,” Satish Kumar Bhattarai, Planning, Monitoring and Administrative Officer at DDC-Gorkha, said.

CRS, Save the Children, IOM, ICRC, World Vision, Oxfam and Care Nepal among other INGOs have spent millions of rupees in the name of earthquake victims. The DDRC has repeatedly asked them for details of their budget but in vain.

As per the records maintained at the DDC, 10 INGOs, 15 NGOs and over 10 local organizations are currently undertaking rehabilitation work in the district.

“Keraunja VDC is the worst-hit village and it takes two days on foot to reach from the district headquarters. Staffers of the aid agencies have been flying to the village in chartered helicopters. In doing so, the aid agencies are spending more funds in logistical arrangements including office management, remuneration, and vehicles,” Kishor Jung Thapa, president of Consumer Rights Protection Forum, informed.

NGOs, INGOs and local organizations have set up their offices in the district headquarters and each have hired between 10 and 100 project staffers.

Meanwhile, Chief District Officer (CDO) Narayan Bhatta informed that most of the work done by the I/NGOs in the district are related to raising awareness, training, health and livelihoods. “Awareness and training related programs are not visible. Reconstruction works would be visible but they haven’t done any yet,” CDO Bhatta, who is also the coordinator of the DDRC, said. “We’re now preparing to invest more funds in hardware.”

“We’ve already formed a separate committee to assign reconstruction work to NGOs and INGOs,” he said.  “From now on, we won’t allow them to work aribtrarily.”

Similar is the situation in Nuwakot district. As per the records maintained at the DDRC and DDC-Nuwakot, 107 organizations, including NGOs and INGOs, came to the district after the earthquakes. As their work has not been effective, the district-level government authorities have started getting strict toward the I/NGOs.

Only after stern instructions by the DDRC and DDC, the NGOs and INGOs have of late started coordinating with the government agencies, according to acting Chief District Officer (CDO) Khagendra Ghimire.

“In the earlier stages, various agencies were allowed to work in the district,” Acting CDO Ghimire said. “But they did not coordinate with the government authorities.”

After strict monitoring by the district authorities, it has been found that 25 NGOs and 15 INGOs are  currently working in the district. Earlier, more than 100 NGOs and INGOs claimed to have been working. Gobardhan Sunar, program manager of DDRC, informed that the aid agencies have spent their funds mainly under 10 different headings including health and nutrition, drinking water, immediate recovery, food security, and construction of temporary schools.

However, most INGOs have not submitted their financial reports till date, according to the DDRC.

Also in Dolakha, another earthquake-hit district, the aid agencies have not maintained transparency in their operations. DDC Dolakha said it is not aware of the work done by majority of the aid agencies. Local stakeholders alleged that many aid agencies distributed sub-standard relief materials to the quake victims. One such agency was Plan International, which was found to have distributed substandard corrugated zinc sheets to 2700 households in the district. Plan later pledged to replace the zinc sheets.

Similar is the condition in Sindhupalchowk, the district worst-affected by the earthquakes. District authorities have no proper information on the work and expenditures of the aid agencies. It is estimated that around 500 organizations came to the district for relief and rehabilitation activities after the earthquake, but the DDC has signed agreements with only 152 I/NGOs. Currently, 46 organizations, including aid agencies are currently working in the district, according to Anirudra Nepal, internal auditor at the DDC. So it is not known whether the remaining agencies are still active in the district or not. DDRC-Sindhupalchowk said it does not know who are the beneficiaries of such aid agencies.

Even the agencies which signed agreements with the DDC have not informed about the progress made, said Nepal of the DDC, who is also the contact person at the DDRC.

He informed that only 47 out of the total number of I/NGOs, including various UN agencies, have submitted their progress reports and expenditure details. The total expenditure shown by the 47 I/NGOs is Rs 4,064,320,244. The money was spent in nine areas — health and nutrition, drinking water, sanitation, early recovery, food security, education, temporary shelter, housing, and logistics.

Although the aid agencies and I/NGOs have submitted their reports, their expenditure details are not transparent, according to district officials. The reports do not cover the total number of beneficiaries, investment, or type and quantity of support materials meant for quake victims. Neither have their activities been monitored to ensure their effectiveness.

Chief District Officer (CDO) Gokarnamani Duwadi also admitted the lack of accountability among the aid agencies. He further said that they should make their funds and activities transparent. “We’re looking for detailed reports on expenditure and effectiveness,” he said. “Preparations for reviewing their work are underway to hold them accountable for maintaining transparency.”