Social Welfare Council’s role in partner organisation selection may invite conflict of interest, organisations sayThe council came up with the directive earlier this week, much to the dismay of international organisations working in the country.
Prithvi Man Shrestha
The Social Welfare Council’s provision of involving itself in the selection process of local partners for international non-governmental organisations could attract conflict of interest, representatives of international NGOs have said.
Even though the council has tried to avoid conflict of interest by allowing a third party to evaluate the works of INGOs, it has made it mandatory for INGOs to involve the council while selecting their local partners.
“An INGO needs to select a domestic NGO as its local partner transparently by calling expressions of interest from the NGOs based in the concerned province,” states the clause 7 (1A) of the guideline which was amended recently.“The council should compulsorily be involved in selecting the partner institution.”
It further states that local partners should be selected through coordination with the council if the expression of interest could not be called due to some reason.
“I think it is the continuation of existing provisions regarding involvement of council in selecting the local NGOs,” Pushkar Khati, member secretary of the council told the Post via telephone. “If there is concern regarding this provision, we can rethink. Otherwise, we have to implement the directive.”
According to the latest amended directive, the provision was made in the latest amendment earlier this week. Its old version is not available on its website.
Representatives of INGOs say that the involvement of the council in selecting the local partner would lead to conflict of interest for the officials of the council.
The council officials could influence the selection of local partners, says Achyut Luitel, chairperson of Association of International NGOs in Nepal (AIN).
“The task of the regulator should be to prepare a standard for selecting local partner organisations. It should not be involved in the selection process itself.”
Luitel, who is also the country director for Practical Action, said that such a provision would leave a grey area that the council officials could exploit for their personal benefit, such as seeking kickbacks from local NGOs in return for ensuring that they are selected as partner organisations for INGOs.
Most INGOs engage local organisations to carry out work at the local level. They should be selected based on the standards set by the council, according to the amended directive of the council.
Govinda Neupane, country representative of Terre des hommes, a Swiss organisation working in the field of child protection, said that the INGOs should be free to choose their local partners based on the standards set by the regulator.
“As the government resources are not involved in implementation of the projects financed by the international NGOs, the council should not be involved in selecting the local partners.”
According to him, while INGOs should notify the council about the selected NGOs during the project agreement, they should not be made to involve the council in the selection process of partner organisations.
According to the representatives of INGOs, the council’s involvement in the selection process of the local partner organisations goes against its own policy that has sought to end conflict of interest.
As per the Policy and Programme of the Council unveiled recently, the council will not involve in the evaluation process. It says the council will be involved in monitoring but evaluation will be carried out through a third party.
Currently, while conducting the evaluation of projects implemented by INGOs, a four member team is formed led by a programme specialist, and represented by a member from the council, the government and a financial specialist. In a recent interview, Khati had told the Post: ‘The move is aimed at avoiding conflict of interest as the council itself should not be approving the project and evaluating the works.”
Jitram Lama, president of NGO Federation Nepal, however, said that the council’s involvement in the selection process of local partners should not make that big of a difference as long as the set standards are properly followed.