Track­ing Nepal’s aid money amid cor­rup­tion

The China Post - - COMMENTARY - BY CHAHANA SIGDEL

The de­bate on over­head costs and cor­rup­tion is be­ing talked about not only among ex­perts but also the cit­i­zenry. Peo­ple are cu­ri­ous to know as to how much money has come into the coun­try and where will it go in the next five, ten years or even more.

En­ter a tech com­pany, Young In­no­va­tions, which has come up with an on­line por­tal that aims to track the fi­nan­cial flow of aid in the coun­try. The data is open, for ev­ery­one to see and draw anal­y­sis from. While the chal­lenges are aplenty, the folks at Young In­no­va­tions are determined to craft a sys­tem to track the money that will go to­wards re­build­ing Nepal. “We say the sys­tem is cor­rupt, that things are not work­ing. In Nepal, we tend to gen­er­al­ize. What is needed is ev­i­dence.

With th­ese trace­abil­ity tools, there will be an op­por­tu­nity to col­lect that ev­i­dence— of good work, bad work, good use of funds and mis­use of funds,” says Bib­hu­san Bista, CEO of Young In­no­va­tions.

So far, the com­pany’s earth­quake. open­nepal. net por­tal gives an up­date on the to­tal amount of money pledged in hu­man­i­tar­ian aid, which at the time of writ­ing was US$ 804,748,116. Be­low the fig­ure, are the de­tails. The amount is bro­ken down largely into two cat­e­gories — na­tional and in­ter­na­tional. The in­ter­na­tional sec­tion is fur­ther cat­e­go­rized into mul­ti­lat­eral, bi­lat­eral, INGOs, cor­po­rate and “oth­ers,” while the na­tional one has been cat­e­go­rized into the gov­ern­ment, NGOs, in­di­vid­u­als and cor­po­rate, along with an “other” sub di­vi­sion.

Each cat­e­gory has a de­tailed page that pro­vides more in­sight on the par­tic­u­lars of the money com­mit­ted.

Data is gath­ered from var­i­ous sources, in­clud­ing UNOCHA’s Fi­nan­cial Track­ing Ser­vice, The Prime Min­is­ter’s Re­lief Fund and lo­cal me­dia re­ports. Bista says they want this to be a long- term project that tracks dis­burse­ment of the aid as well.

Two full- time per­son­nel are con­stantly col­lect­ing and ver­i­fy­ing data be­fore feed­ing them into the sys­tem.

The com­pany also works with user feed­back. Bista was tagged in a tweet by the U. S. Em­bassy that stated that the em­bassy’s fig­ures did not match the records pro­vided by the por­tal, which was taken from UNOCHA’s fi­nan­cial track­ing ser­vice.

The em­bassy guided them to­wards the cor­rect fig­ure.

The com­pany, a part of the IATI, In­ter­na­tional Aid Trans­parency Ini­tia­tive, has de­vel­oped aid- mon­i­tor­ing tools be­ing used in at least 20 coun­tries. Bista says they started build­ing the sys­tem the next day af­ter the Great Quake and the site went live on April 28.

Main­tain­ing aid trans­parency and ac­count­abil­ity are tough tasks in Nepal, says an ex­pert who has been work­ing in the devel­op­ment field and is also closely mon­i­tor­ing aidrelated work. Trans­parency In­ter­na­tional, in an ar­ti­cle in the Guardian, has also out­lined the prob­lem of cor­rup­tion that could hin­der dis­burse­ment of aid. Among pos­si­ble so­lu­tions, the ar­ti­cle men­tions fo­cus­ing on the web­site for the Prime Min­is­ter’s Re­lief Fund as a key piece in the trans­parency process.

The Prime Min­is­ter’s Re­lief Fund, in fact, has been re­leas­ing in­for­ma­tion about the money com­ing into its ac­count. Ac­knowl­edg­ing the re­lief fund’s at­tempt at trans­parency, Bista says strength­en­ing the gov­ern­ment is the key to cre­at­ing a vi­brant sys­tem that can help track aid. In a ma­jor de­ci­sion last week, the Cabi­net has made it manda­tory for in­sti­tu­tions and in­di­vid­u­als will­ing to par­tic­i­pate in re­con­struc­tion work to sign a bi­lat­eral agree­ment with the gov­ern­ment. In the di­rec­tive, the gov­ern­ment has asked the de­tails of aid com­mit­ment and ex­pen­di­tures to be sub­mit­ted to the Aid Man­age­ment Plat­form.

The idea of the earth­quake aid por­tal is an ex­tended and more de­tailed ver­sion of the Aid Man­age­ment Plat­form, says Bista. “We want this por­tal to be as de­tailed as pos­si­ble. Peo­ple’s emo­tions are at­tached to this. Those who have do­nated money will want to know where it has gone and they have the right to do so.”

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