Kathmandu, September 18
The two transitional justice mechanisms’ fund crunch issue is more than what meets the eye and according to multiple sources THT talked to, the problem runs deep.
Despite money allocated for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons, they have not been able to carry out investigations, as the fund is yet to reach them, largely due to discrepancy in the amount quoted by the home ministry and the balance in the now-defunct Nepal Peace Trust Fund’s account with Nepal Rastra Bank.
The budget for this fiscal has allocated around Rs 250 million to the TRC and CIEDP and part of the allocation (investigation expenses) has been made from the amount deposited by KfW — a German government-owned development bank based in Frankfurt — in the peace fund.
In a letter dated September 6, the home ministry requested the Financial Comptroller General Office to release unspent amount totalling Rs 784,123,072.89 deposited by donors (Denmark, Switzerland, Germany’s KfW, Finland, Norway and the UK’s DFID) in the peace fund as per the finance ministry’s decision. The total amount included Rs 148,234,665.26 received from KfW and allocated to the TRC and CIEDP.
However, the balance in the peace fund’s NRB account shows only Rs 760,212,473.35 as of September 12. This means that the account has Rs 23,910,599.54 less than the amount quoted by the home ministry.
On September 4, the finance ministry had decided that the unspent amount with the
peace fund would be returned
to respective donors, other
than what was received from KfW which would be transferred to the government’s consolidated fund and eventually to the TRC and CIEDP. The finance ministry informed about the decision to the FCGO in a letter the same day.
However, until the inconsistency is removed the central bank cannot transfer the amount to the consolidated fund to enable the FCGO to disburse the money to the TRC and CIEDP, according to Deputy Financial Comptroller General Yadu Nath Bhattarai. “So we have asked the home ministry to send a revised statement making it consistent with the balance in the peace fund’s account with the NRB,” he said.
Under-secretary Shivanath Paudel, financial administration chief at the home ministry, acknowledged that there was inconsistency and added that they would soon submit a revised statement to the FCGO, attributing the discrepancy to ‘confusion’ after scrapping the peace fund.
The peace fund was originally under the erstwhile Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction and had come under the Ministry of Home Affairs before being scrapped.
Of around Rs 130 million allocated to the CIEDP for this fiscal, Rs 58 million is for investigations-related expenses and the rest for administrative expenditure. Moreover, the entire investigations-related budget has been allocated from the KfW’s deposits to the peace fund.
“This has completely crippled us. Although the funds for administrative expenses, including staff salaries, have already been released, we still cannot carry out investigations because we are not authorised to spend budget under one head for different purposes,” said CIEDP Spokesperson Bishnu Pathak.
Worse is the situation at the TRC. Its member Lila Udasi Khanal said they had not even been able to disburse salaries to the staff hired on contract basis, as the budget for such expenses had also been allocated from the same KfW deposits. The TRC has been allocated a total budget of around Rs 120 million.
According to members of the commissions, since it was difficult to visit the doorsteps of every complainant, they call them at designated locations for investigation purposes offering allowances for travel, lodging and food. Moreover, officials deputed in the field also have to be paid and their expenses have to be covered.
A version of this article appears in print on September 19, 2018 of The Himalayan Times.