How has Nepal fared in disaster accountability? Not better than Haiti!

Quincy Wiele & Anu Dongol in Kathmandu

Two months after the devastating earthquakes of June 2015, 56 government and non government organizations met in Kathmandu and deliberated on how much assistance was needed to fund Nepal’s recovery. Although the Government of Nepal had estimated over $7 Billion was needed, the conference concluded with $4.1 Billion pledged, in grant and low interest loans.

For LIG, Nepal’s fiscal challenges are often self created and not strictly due to a lack of resources. In the years prior to the earthquake, district governments had been returning up to 60% of their budgets back to the central government at the end of the fiscal year because of an inability to spend within the time frame. Such chronic under utilization has also translated into the earthquake response as well- an early investigation carried out by LIG revealed that up to 55% of allocated relief funds were unaccounted for after the earthquake.

Allegations of misuse of funds, fake victim names and relief hoarding by a small number of unscrupulous officials have dogged the government’s response for the past three years, difficulties that have been further compounded by the inability of communities to access correct information on government planning and spending.

To shine some much needed light on the government earthquake response and assist authorities increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the government’s response in providing housing entitlements, LIG implemented the Follow the Money project in the most heavily damaged district- Sindhupalchowk and in the epicentre of Gorkha to track financial flows from the capital down to the village level for the purposes of rebuilding homes and to collect and amplify citizen grievances on the government response by using various accessible technologies.

Financial tracking was done from Kathmandu and from the district headquarters. The total amount of funds committed to each district is collected from the Financial Comptrollers General Offices in Kathmandu and from the District Financial Comptroller to see how much money has been allocated/received and spent as well as to identify how many beneficiaries have been identified and how many have received their first, second and third instalments. By looking at how much has been allocated and how much of that has been spent, a clearer picture of how efficient/effective the reconstruction effort has been begins to appear.

Citizen grievances  have been collected via an SMS platform and by two Front Line Associates and a District Coordinator based in each district. Front Line Associates visited affected communities and talked extensively to the victims to see if entitlements were being received and if they had not, why had they not.

These grievances were then digitally mapped on the Relief Gaps Atlas. The data clearly shows that public grievances on the response are primarily centred on receiving entitlements in a timely fashion and complaints around engineers and the government’s response. Only a small percentage of earthquake victims have received the final instalment and rebuild successfully, a strong indication that the government’s response needs significant improvements.

The verified data is now being used for advocacy purposes with the government to help ensure all earthquake victims in the two pilot districts receive their entitlements and have the information they need to act as citizen watch dogs and hold elected officials accountable.   

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