Experts in public financial management have emphasized the need for improvements in openness and citizen engagement in the creation and implementation of fiscal policy packages, as well as scrutiny by the parliament and the highest audit institution, both during and after the pandemic.
The experts said responding to the pandemic in an open and accountable manner is not only a way for the government to show its commitment to the wellbeing of its citizens, but also a way to ensure tangible benefits for everyone – from reducing the risks of c, to ensuring tangible benefits for everyone – at a virtual sharing of the findings of the Covid rapid assessment report, ‘Transparency and Accountability of Covid Fiscal Management in Nepal.’
Secretary of the National Planning Commission, Kewal Prasad Bhandari, emphasized the government’s response to Covid-19 management through various fiscal and monetary policies, as well as the importance of institutionalizing citizen involvement channels to properly manage the issue.
Dr Rojnath Pandey, a spokesperson for the Federal Parliamentary Secretariat, said that the finance committee had meticulously conducted pre-budget discussions in the provinces to provide inputs to the executive in the formulation of fiscal policies, but that the parliament’s recommendations and inputs were not taken into account in the budgetary process.
The Supreme Audit Office has concluded the audit process of emergency public expenditures during the reaction to the pandemic last year, according to Deputy Auditor General Ramu Prasad Dotel, and will publish the audit report with its findings and recommendations within a month. “Nepal has implemented certain best practices in terms of transparency arrangements, but it is lacking in terms of putting in place participation mechanisms.”
The assessment’s findings in Nepal show that the stimulus and response packages’ overall transparency was restricted, and that methods for citizen input in their creation and implementation were minimal.
Also addressing at the event, Karobar National Daily Chief Editor Kuvera Chalise emphasized the importance of health as a public good, emphasizing that fiscal packages should be designed to address the issue in a more open, accountable, and transparent manner.
Pukar Bam, one of the ‘Enough is Enough Campaign’ campaigners, expressed dissatisfaction with the government’s failure to meticulously address the design and delivery of Covid response packages, pointing to unaccountable practices in Covid’s fiscal management, including non-disclosure of fiscal information. He also emphasized the importance of bringing non-state apparatuses, in addition to state processes, within the realm of accountability in Nepal.
Gorakh Bahadur Shahi, Member-Secretary of the PEFA Secretariat Nepal, stated that PEFA’s catalytic role was focused on continuing with PFM reforms while putting citizen involvement at the forefront.
Budget researcher Krishna Sapkota shared the findings of a rapid assessment on the ‘transparency and accountability of Covid fiscal management.’ The assessment of emergency fiscal policy packages focused on three critical pillars of accountability: public access to relevant information, oversight by the legislature and national audit office, and opportunities for citizen engagement that help e.
According to the findings of the assessment in Nepal, the stimulus and response packages’ overall transparency was restricted, and avenues for citizen input in their development and implementation were weak. There are potential to improve oversight methods to ensure that the response and recovery are more accountable.
Publishing monthly progress reports on the implementation of measures in the budget speech, including data and analysis on budget execution and performance, disaggregated by impact on disadvantaged groups, including women and girls, are among the key recommendations highlighted to strengthen accountability and ensure equitable and effective response.
The report also recommended that a legal and regulatory framework be introduced, reviewed, and updated to clarify roles, responsibilities, and approaches to be taken during times of crisis, such as in the areas of resource management, procurement, oversight, and participation, and that the OAG’s audit findings are acted on quickly and substantive audit follow-up is strengthened.
Suad Hasan of the International Budget Partnership (IBP) argued that overall, governments are failing to manage their fiscal policy responses to the crisis in a transparent and accountable manner, citing the findings of Covid-global Module’s survey study. “In the introduction and implementation of their early fiscal policy solutions, more than two-thirds of the 120 governments examined provided either limited or inadequate degrees of accountability.”
Governments can strengthen capacities and basic systems for accountability in the annual budget cycle, according to Claire Schouten of the IBP, in order to be better prepared for future crises, and international actors can assist governments in being fully open and accountable in their fiscal policy responses to current and future crises.
Taranath Dahal, a proponent of public financial management reform, emphasized the importance of promoting open budgeting, which is necessary to support more effective resource allocation, improve service delivery, and earn public trust.
Freedom Forum, in partnership with IBP and conversations with various actors in the accountability system, including the administration and legislature, assessed the emergency budgetary packages offered by the Nepal government in fiscal year 2020/21.