As President Bidya Devi Bhandari and Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli inaugurated National Reconstruction Mega Campaign with much fanfare amidst two separate functions in Kathmandu, the government has secretly allowed a non-governmental organization (NGO) to hire over 3,000 engineers to begin the national task of reconstruction and rehabilitation.
While the NGO has already begun the process of recruiting engineers, the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) hasn’t even coordinated with the two key implementing government agencies — Ministry of Urban Development and the Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development.
Though the government convened big public events to give an impression that its entire focus is on the reconstruction campaign, top officials at the ministries said they have been bypassed.
The Health Research and Social Development Forum (HERD) on its website has already sought applications for 3,000 civil engineers to carry out detail damage assessment survey in the 14 districts most affected by the earthquakes last year.
“We are looking for about 3000 young, dynamic and dedicated professionals with academic background in Civil Engineering (graduated Engineers/Overseers or those with near completion of their studies),” reads the advertisement website of the NGO.
While the NGO has already begun the recruitment process, NRA hasn’t even sought the key ministries’ suggestion with regard to conducting the survey, result of which is going to be the key basis to carry out the entire reconstruction and rehabilitation tasks.
“Though we have heard that the NRA has started the assessment and other tasks through various non-governmental organizations, it has so far not consulted us,” Padma Kumar Mainali, spokesman at the Ministry of Urban Development, told Republica. “Had the NRA sought engineers from us, we could have helped.”
He said the Ministry of Urban Development can help the NRA with the survey work also.
The NRA was supposed to seek help from the Central Bureau of Statistics but they outsourced the same job to an NGO, according to officials.
“Such a major task of the state should have been done through government bodies that have not only good network in the grassroots but also have authenticity and accountability,” said former Chief Secretary Leela Mani Paudyal. “While carrying out such tasks, first priority must be given to government bodies. Otherwise there can be a problem of accountability.”
Right after the earthquakes ravaged the country, engineers from the Ministry of Urban Development had conducted a rapid damage assessment of the destruction. The findings of their survey became not only the major basis for distributing immediate relief to the earthquake victims but also a source document to prepare the Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) report.
When the Department of Urban Development and Building Construction under the ministry sought 46 engineers a few weeks ago, over 2,000 engineers applied.
“The same applicants could have been forwarded for the survey through the CBS, which could have been more authentic process instead of asking an NGO to do the job,” said another top official at the ministry.
Also, officials at the Ministry of Local Development said that NRA hasn’t consulted the ministry while carrying out survey at the local levels.
“Maybe the NRA has been receiving support from the Ministry of Urban Development in this task. Our ministry isn’t involved in it,” said Joint Secretary Gopi Khanal, who also heads the division that oversees the affairs of municipalities and village development committees.
Madhusudan Adhikari, acting secretary at NRA, said they first sought support from the CBS but later the NGO was selected for conducting the survey.