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Kathmandu Post: Multi-million dollar forestry program courts controversy
A multi-million dollar forestry programme funded by donors has been dragged into controversy for non- transparency and the donors’ doubtful alignment with a non-government organisation.
On Friday, Rupantaran Nepal, an NGO, was chosen as an agency to execute the four-year Multi-Stakeholder Forestry Programme (MSFP) funded by UKaid from the Department for International Development (DFID), the government of Finland and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and supported by the government of Nepal. The donor community has contributed 63 percent of the project’s total budget of US $62 million (Rs 1.26 billion), with the government funding the rest for the implementation of the programme.
The NGO, set up in 2009 by a group of development professionals from the then Livelihood Forest Programme (LFP) and the Swiss Community Forestry Project, is running various programmes on improving livelihood through the funds from the SDC and the DFID.
Various groups, including experts from the forestry sector, officials and community forest users, have been expressing serious concerns over the programme from the very beginning for its lack of transparency during the preparatory phase in terms of institutional role and funding modality about two years ago.
“The activities of the donors participating in the programme are of serious concern. The programme is a result of a pre-planned design that came without holding consultations with partners concerned, including the civil society,” said Debesh Mani Tripathi, the president of Nepal Foresters’ Association (NFA).
“The programme was the result of vested interests of a few government officials and donor agencies in the forest sector of Nepal,” added Tripathi, who has been keenly following the MSFP since its inception.
“Rupantaran Nepal is an NGO formed by the donors to execute their programmes,” he said.
A five-member multi-stakeholder steering committee, formed about a month ago to provide strategic guidance for the implementation of the programme, has no representative from the civil society, despite the fact that the plan was to be implemented by the government, civil society and private sector organisations.
“The MSFP just holds a symbolic meaning to us. It is not a multi-stakeholder and people’s programme,” said Ghanashyam Pandey, the coordinator of Global Alliance of Community Forestry (GACF).
The programme was endorsed by the government about two months ago to contribute to inclusive economic growth, poverty reduction and to tackle climate change through good governance of the forestry sector. The project was expected to benefit around 1.7 million poor and the disadvantaged.
Rupantaran has been awarded with the Interim Forestry Programme, a project jointly funded by the SDC and the DFID for the period Oct 2011-April 2012, to work in 18 districts to provide forestry and livelihood services to forestry groups.
The same organisation will be working now as part of the MSFP in the same 18-listed districts.
It is also revealed that former official at the Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation, Surya Prasad Joshi, who had also served as chief of the Foreign Aid Department under the ministry, is now a board member of Rupantaran.
“The donors had already provided funds before the finalisation of the names of the implementing agencies to Rupantaran which implies that they had made up their mind to award the contract to the same organisation,” said a source from one of the donor agencies.
However, Ramu Subedi, team leader of the MSFP representing the donors, said that the process of selecting Rupantaran as an implementing agency for the transition phase was done as per the international standards.
“Though the organisation has been managing donor-funded forestry projects for both the Swiss and the UK agencies, it is an entirely separate and autonomous organisation,” he said.
Subedi added that any formal complaints received as part of SDC’s procurement procedure will be investigated properly.
Posted By Angela Strader at 2:53pm on March 20, 2012
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