Via Swarnim Waglé
**What is the PM’s Disaster Relief Fund and What it is Not?**
I have been swamped with queries on what the recent Central Bank directive on transfer of funds AFTER the April 25 earthquake means. **I share your concerns.** But it only affects bank accounts that were opened in the last 6 days under the direct subject of “quake relief.” People, agencies, NGOs, donors with established bank accounts before April 25 can continue to receive and mobilize funds just as they used to in the past. But I am verifying some more facts, and will post separately on this topic later.
In the mean time, there is a lot of misunderstanding about the PM’s Disaster Relief Fund. Let me clarify based on what I know:
1. The Prime Minister (or his party) have absolutely nothing to do with it. The PM cannot access this fund himself. It is coordinated by the Vice Chairperson of the NPC and 8 Secretaries through a unanimous decision.
2. It is purely a relief fund, channeled through the Chief District Officer in each disaster-hit district, and is meant to follow a “fast track” to cut through the usual procedural delays in a slow bureaucracy.
3. The fund cannot be used to provide donations or any other administrative or overhead costs including facilities and allowances to civil servants. (They get no helicopter rides or random “incentives.”)
4. This is *completely* different from the Prime Minister’s “Assistance Fund” which he can use with discretion.
5. Is there some leakage, abuse, waste? I bet there is, just like there is scope for foul play in any large fund run by multilaterals (WB/ADB), bilaterals (UK/US) or NGOs. But what are the safeguards against potential abuse? Unlike the PM’s “Assistance Fund” which is not legally required to be audited, the “Disaster Relief Fund” is audited regularly and annually by the Office of the Auditor General of Nepal. There is a clear “Karyabidhi” (Operation Regulations 2006). “Akhtiyaar” can also look into cases and folks can go to jail.
6. The Government will most likely also add an extra layer of third party, independent auditing to enhance credibility and transparency.
7. No political party or leader has any access to these funds at the Centre. My personal view is that to prevent misuse in the districts, vigilance and scrutiny is required by the media and civil society. Do ask tough questions and hold officials to account.
8. The website lists all contributions so far (file downloadable in Excel), including the US$1 million cash donation from Bhutan: http://pmrelief.opmcm.gov.np/contributors.aspx
9. In view of the above, the premise of this article in a British newspaper that “funds are being directed to a political party” is completely untrue. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/…/Nepal-aid-donors-may-halt-fund…
10. For further clarity, please contact the Coordinator of the Fund, Prof. Dr. Govind Raj Pokharel (NPC Vice Chair) on his mobile: 98511 00407 or the Secretary of the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers Mr. Narayan Gopal Malego on 98415 16505.