freedom1 Forum has formally launched the study report titled ‘Aid Transparency Situation in Nepal’ in the capital city Kathmandu on November 30, 2012.
freedom1 Forum had conducted a survey 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- and 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.
Being a pioneer task, the study has revealed some interesting facts on aid transparency situation in Nepal. The major findings of the study are as follows.
• All agencies at central level reported that they share aid and project information with different stakeholders but level of information sharing is different.
• There are a total of 164 running projects of the seven sampled agencies and a large portion (over 80%) projects are being implemented through Nepal Government. As reported USAID is the only agency which has been implementing projects through I/NGOs.
• There is significant discrepancy between the information provided by project/district offices and beneficiaries
• Web portal and media are the main outreach mechanism to pass on the information to the stakeholders including beneficiaries.
• Inquiry on foreign aid and project information was very minimal at district level.
• Project reports, country office website and press release have been the most common means of information sharing amongst the agencies.
• Six agencies out of seven have assigned officers for information sharing but DFID is the only agency which does not have designated officer.
• Media is the group who mostly asks information at central level whereas beneficiary and leaders are at highest in districts.
• No agency gave the exact time period that takes to provide information and gave different answers but ADB and USAID did not give any answer at all.
• None of the agencies provided complete budgetary information. Hence, all agencies have failed on their claim that they were transparent and accountable.
Similarly, the research team came with a number of observation and key learning in course of pilot study. They are,
• The presumption that donors respond to the queries or letters with due course of time without much delay, doesn’t seem to be entirely correct.
• Finding designated officer at the donor agency was very challenging.
• Transparency level as claimed by donor agencies is not found in practice. There is discrepancy between what is stated and what is practiced.
• Knowledge level on Aid Transparency and Accountability (ATA) amongst heads of district/project offices seems very low. The project beneficiaries do not seem to have any knowledge on ATA at all.
• ATA has not been the priority issue amongst the donor agencies as the representatives of only two organizations turned up on methodology workshop and three on the sharing workshop though all seven agencies were informed.
• A systematic and standard tool to measure the level of aid transparency could be developed.
• Research to locate transparency situation of donors is quite time-taking and rigorous process
• Involvement of donor agencies’ representatives in research process is very difficult as they tend to avoid any meeting and gathering related to ATA
• Accessing information from donor agency to measuring up their openness and transparency is difficult as many of them seem reluctant to provide information. It is rather difficult to acquire budgetary information from them by general public.
• Hierarchy/administrative hassle within donor agencies makes difficult to contact the right person for information.
Based on the findings and key learning and observation, research team has made the following recommendation for consideration of donor agencies.
• Outreach mechanism should be developed in such a way that two-way communication could be established and information shared should be friendly to users and citizen.
• Designated information officer should be assigned in all agencies to provide aid related information to the stakeholders and other requesters.
• Donor agencies should provide publicly important information regularly in every three months complying with the RTI Act of Nepal.
• More comprehensive research and study on aid transparency should be carried out. Budget tracking could be another area of further exploration.
• Donor agencies should devise concrete policy and mechanism and establish best practices in disseminating aid information to all the stakeholders in a non-technical way.
• The donor agencies should proactively disclose information on the number of ongoing projects through different other agencies.
• The websites are mostly in English medium, so it has not reached to the final beneficiaries. Therefore, different methods for information dissemination have to be followed/adopted.
• It is essential to develop the data system in the Aid Management Platform (AMP) by integrating the information all ministries and central bodies, Social Welfare Council and all 75 districts which receive and mobilize foreign aid.
• It was also equally important to study about whom the information is flowed and how information sharing is implemented. Further comprehensive study on similar issue is recommended.
• Foreign assistance should be funneled through one-door system so that it would be helpful to maintain aid transparency and accountability.
• Programs for individual and institutional knowledge enhancement and awareness raising on aid transparency should be planned and implemented at district and community levels.