A newly published report has busted the myth that leading aid agencies working in the country are transparent about their activities and financial resource allocations.
The report titled ´A Pilot Study on Situation of Aid Transparency in Nepal´ published by freedom1 Forum states that transparency level as claimed by donor agencies was not found in practice, although senior management team at those agencies had good knowledge of aid transparency and accountability.
The survey conducted among seven donor agencies – the World Bank (WB), the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Department for International Development (DFID), Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Norwegian Embassy, USAID and the UNDP – found that none of the agencies provided complete budgetary information, many kept beneficiaries in dark about project budget, many were reluctant about providing information on projects and at least one agency did not even have a designated officer to share information.
“Yet all seven agencies consulted at the central level mentioned they did not have restriction on sharing project and program information with stakeholders and they do have organizational policy on the same,” says the report, which was prepared in coordination with Aid Info, a UK based NGO working on donor transparency.
During the survey all agency responded saying they share documents on project agreement and policies with stakeholders. But none of them shared complete information on budget, the report says.
USAID, for instance, provided information on total commitment amount for 2009, 2010 and 2011. But it failed to provide information on actual disbursement during those years, the report says. The DfID, another leading aid agency for Nepal, on the other hand, could not clarify whether the aid was grant or loan, budgetary or non-budgetary and monetary or non-monetary. The agency also could not provide yearly breakdown of commitment and disbursement of amount, the report states.
The World Bank, which was the only donor agency that provided information on internal budget, also could not provide information on whether the aid was budgetary or non-budgetary and monetary or non-monetary.
Surprisingly, the ADB did not provide any information on its budget, which the report says was “very unusual”. Others like JICA, UNDP and Norwegian Embassy also could not furnish complete information on budgetary allocations.
The situation was even worse at the district level in terms of information dissemination on budget allocated for projects. During survey in Chitwan and Dolakha, only 30 percent of them were aware about the project budget, while 64 percent of project offices claimed they share information on project budget with beneficiaries.
Similar discrepancy was also detected on sharing monitoring and evaluation reports. While 85 percent of project offices claimed they shared such reports with beneficiaries, only 20 percent of the beneficiaries said they had actually received such documents.
The survey also found that not all donor agencies shared all the information. For instance, the UNDP said it does not share information with the people of the donor country, USAID said it does not share information with project implementers and Norwegian Embassy said it does share information with beneficiaries, civil society organizations and media, the report says.
Concluding that there are lots of discrepancies on what the donor agencies say and practice, the report suggests that the agencies strictly follow the provisions on Right to Information Act and disclose information every three months, especially on the number of ongoing projects being implemented with the support of the government, different non-government organizations, the private sector and others. “Budget tracking could also be an area for further exploration,” the report suggests.