I came across a few INGO workers in the last few weeks who have recently gone to defend their projects with the Project Agreement Facilitation Committee (PAFC) in the Ministry of Women, Children and Senior Citizens (MoWCSC). They shared with me their frustrating experiences while they were presenting their project proposal for Project Agreement (PA). Social Welfare Council (SWC) is the government authority for civil society actions in the country, and regulates and facilitates the Non Government Organizations (NGOs) and International Non-governmental Organizations (INGOs) in the country. MoWCSC is the line ministry for the SWC.
All INGOs under the SWC need to enter into PA once they are able to find secured resources for implementing specific projects. There is a provision of PAFC chaired by a designated Joint Secretary of MoWCSC with several other members representing concerned Ministries and departments and National Planning Commission. This is where most of the INGO workers who go to defend their projects are embarrassed, because many committee members come without reading the document and make irrelevant comments. Moreover, they lack listening skills, which is largely a behavioral attitude.
INGOs are complimenting the government’s development efforts in the sectors like health, education, disaster management, climate change adaptation, food security, livelihood, small infrastructures, etc. However, the committee members rarely appreciate that. The quality of comments they make are less conceptual, and more related with figures, geography, partner and some irrelevant preaching.
The money that INGOs bring are not loans and consist of no conditionality to the government. The Social Welfare Act (2049 BS) has given full authority to the Social Welfare Council for signing the General Agreement and Project Agreements with the INGOs. However, the authority has not been fully used by the SWC for decades. The authority has been surrendered to the Ministry by the earlier member secretaries a long time ago. As a result, though the SWC understands the project and has the authority, it looks powerless in such cases. The project agreements do not need to go to the tables of the Secretary and the Minister for approval. They do not have authority and it is unnecessary too. They have more work to do other than signing the NGO project agreements.
This is the high time for INGOs, the SWC and the Ministry to work together and find simple ways so that the project agreements are signed well on time and the intended benefits reach sooner to the communities. The SWC needs to be strengthened in terms of human and financial resources, so that it can monitor INGO activities independently and introduce rewards and punishments according to their work. The INGOs who are true development partners deserve more recognition and support from the government.
(Achyut Luitel is a noted development professional of Nepal. He is currently affiliated with One Heart Worldwide as a member of the Management Board.)