With the dust over the proposed National Integrity Policy yet to settle, the move of two ministries to monitor the activities of non-government organisations and international NGOs has raised questions if the ruling coalition aims to rein in the non-government sector.
On Thursday, the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Women, Children and Senior Citizens decided to work on a draft procedure to monitor the activities of I/NGOs. The developments come at a time when the Cabinet is said to be working to endorse the National Integrity Policy.
The meeting between Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa and Women, Children and Senior Citizens Minister Tham Maya Thapa decided to direct the 77 District Administration Offices to monitor the I/NGOs and report to them. It also decided to scrap the registration of I/NGOs involved in preaching religious beliefs, and those engaged in political activities and convicted of corruption.
The decision also said I/NGOs failing to renew their registration for the last three years would be asked to complete the process within 15 days. Failure to do that will lead to their scrapping.
The ministries decided to draft a work procedure to curb their “arbitrary” acts, making it mandatory for I/NGO workers to reveal their property. The Senior Citizen Ministry is also preparing to form a special committee to bring out structural changes in the Social Welfare Council that regulates the NGO sector.
Home Ministry officials said the government was worried about “growing anomalies” among the I/NGOs in the absence of a proper monitoring mechanism. Minister Tham Maya said the government would control irregularities in the I/NGOs, adding that their activities would be defined in the upcoming Integrity Policy.
These moves of the Nepal Communist Party (NCP)-led government have made the I/NGO sector wary of the government’s intention. Gopal Lamsal, chairman of the NGO Federation of Nepal, said they would meet the two ministers to discuss motives behind the government’s moves.
Civil society leader Devendra Raj Pandey said such policy documents should be taken to the public for discussion and the suggestions and feedback incorporated for building national consensus on the action and to avoid controversy. “Financial accountabilities of such civic organisations could be monitored but all other activities of a legal body need not be scrutinised,” he commented.
Scrapping the registration of INGOs failing to renew within three months was objectionable as the process often takes more than a year to complete due to bureaucratic hurdles.
“The government’s move to streamline I/NGOs and to bring back those going out of track is positive but it needs to reconsider some issues included in the first draft of the National Integrity Policy,” said Shibesh Chandra Regmi, chairperson of the Association of International NGOs of Nepal (AIN).
He said the AIN has clearly communicated to the government authorities to take action against those violating the constitutional and legal provisions but all the I/NGOs must not be punished for one’s wrongdoing. “The I/NGO sector could hugely contribute to the government’s objective of achieving prosperity. The AIN is for working in collaboration with government agencies,” he added.
AIN and NGO Federation officials said they hope the government incorporates their suggestions into the policy.