NEC to delineate the clear roles and responsibilities between focal and implementing agencies
In an effort to address particularly environmental issue, Bhutan being party to twelve multilateral environmental agreements (MEA), out of which Royal Audit Authority (RAA) has conducted performance audit on four of them.
Multilateral Environmental Agreements being legally binding agreements amongst the states play a critical role in the overall framework of environmental laws and conventions complementing national legislation and bilateral and regional agreements.
The finding was presented by the Chairman of the Public Account Committee (PAC) and the National Council member from Zhemgang Pema Dakpa last Thursday to joint sitting of the Parliament.
The RAA has elected four MEAs based on the relevance and importance of MEAs to Bhutan, environment risk underlying the convention, availability of information and public interest and awareness on the agreements.
The objective of the audit was to ascertain the compliances of environmental obligations under the MEAs, adequacy of existing compliance assurance and monitoring mechanism instituted at various levels and system of reporting to the Parliament on the progress and activities relating to their implementation.
While the RAA had found out that these four MEAs were adequately under compliance when it comes to its rules, regulation, mandates and obligations. However, RAA had found out few observations which are pertinent to the report that the National Environment Commission Secretariat (NECS) has failed to take the lead role for negotiating and enforcing the bilateral and multilateral environmental agreement as per the National Environmental Protection Act 2007 due to lack of adequate coordination between the focal agencies and implementing agencies.
Besides that, RAA had also found out that the non-compliances were noticed in meeting the obligation under United Nations Convention on Combating Desertification (UNCCD) as Bhutan is yet to prepare a National Action Program (NAP) to combat desertification.
It had also found out that no biotechnology activities and no arrangement exist for safe use of biotechnology particularly when 35 percent foods are imported.
While based on the finding, RAA made some recommendation that there should be clear roles, responsibilities and accountabilities to be specified; framework and criteria for selecting a focal and implementing agency to be developed and also coordination between the focal agency and the implementing agencies to be strengthened.
While, RAA had also recommended that system of reporting to the Parliament to be instituted; adequate studies to be conducted prior to signing or ratifying any MEAs and also possibility of greater regional corporation amongst SAARC and with other neighboring countries to be explored.
However, the PAC observed from the audit review report that two of the nine recommendations were implemented, four recommendations were not implemented and three recommendations were partially implemented.
While the four MEAs which were done based on the relevancy and importance of MEAs are the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) and its Kyoto Protocol; the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer and its Montreal Protocol; United Nations Convention on Combating desertification and United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (UNCBD).
Meanwhile, the PAC committee recommended that to enhance implementation of the compliances to the obligations under MEAs, National Environment Commission Secretariat being the designated competent authority and the national focal point should complete the development of initiated overall framework, and delineate the clear roles and responsibilities between the focal and implementing agencies by the end of year 2016.