Those working for poverty alleviation must keep us in the loop
RUPAK D SHARMA
KATHMANDU, Oct 14: Officials looking over affairs related to poverty at the Ministry of Cooperatives and Poverty Alleviation (MoCPA) grumble a lot these days. They spend most of their working hours, even tea breaks, griping about what the government should have done for things to take off at the ministry.
These conversations make them tensed at times; and at times they feel sorry for taxpayers whose hard-earned money is being spent on what they said was “worthless” things.
But the fact that these officials seethe all day long, almost every working day, also indicates that they have loads of free time at their disposal. And that is because the ministry does not have line-up of programs to keep them busy.
Like the MoCPA, most of the ministries in the country currently do not have many projects to implement because the government has not been able to come up with a full budget due to resistance from opposition parties. This has barred these government agencies from spending more than one-third of the amount consumed last fiscal year.
The MoCPA probably would have been happy had it obtained funds proportional to what other ministries are getting. But formed only late last fiscal year with very few projects under its wings, it is getting miniscule amount.
“The fund we have received so far is just enough to cover administrative costs and staff expenses. Whatever is left gets spent on holding few symposiums, and draft laws and bylaws,” a high-ranking official of the ministry told Republica on condition of anonymity.
But lack of budget is not the only issue the ministry officials gripe about all day long. They are more angry with the government for not making a serious push to give recognition to the ministry.
The MoCPA was established so that affairs related to cooperatives, which have expanded rapidly in the country, and poverty alleviation, which is the overarching goal of every government, could be dealt with separately.
Since works related to cooperatives are merely transferred from the agriculture ministry, officials responsible for the cooperative affairs did not have much to complain. But since a ministry to look exclusively into poverty-related issues was formed for the first time, there is still confusion on roles and responsibilities of the new government body.
“Rather than clearing the confusion, it seems the government itself has forgotten the objectives behind establishing such a ministry,” the official said, wearing a dejected expression on his face.
As an apex body on poverty alleviation, the ministry has the mandate to form policies on poverty reduction, regulate all parties that are implementing programs on poverty alleviation and monitor the implementation of these programs.
“But so far none of those implementing the projects on poverty alleviation have reported to us. As a result, we neither have data on ongoing projects nor on parties handling them,” the official said.
Since poverty is a cross-cutting issue, almost every ministry in the country is overseeing implementation of one or more projects on poverty alleviation.
Then there are INGOs that often incorporate at least one program on poverty reduction in their list of agendas. Add to that hundreds of NGOs that claim to run projects aimed at addressing issues related to poverty. These numbers add up to hundreds of projects which have a single goal of reducing poverty in the country.
“Despite this we´re not kept in the loop,” the official said.
For instance, the official continued, programs being handled by the Youth Self-employment and Small Entrepreneurs Fund are related to poverty reduction. “But the fund never informs the ministry about its works,” the official complained. “The case is same with many other projects.”
To set things right, the government must issue a stern instruction to all concerned to report their activities to the MoCPA, according to the official.
“This does not mean we are asking the government to involve ministry officials in all poverty-related projects. All we are asking for is a creation of system that allows us to track what is happening in the area of poverty reduction,” the official said.
“If this problem is not immediately addressed, the ministry will gradually lose its relevance and we will be left with no teeth to regulate the sector and monitor projects. Eventually, this will leave staff with low morale, affecting overall work at the ministry.”