Government to use public funds judiciously, cooperate with TI
The government of Pakistan on Thursday expressed the resolve to use public funds judiciously and cooperate with Transparency International (TI) and other local and global monitoring agencies especially in case of assistance with regards to worst ever floods in the history of Pakistan.
Speaking at a workshop “International Workshop on Ensuring the Transparent Use of Flood Relief, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Funds” Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh said the government of Pakistan would implement all the recommendations made by the Transparency International.
He said that the government would spend the flood relief funds in transparent manner and facilitate everyone in monitoring the utilisation of funds. He said that the government is ready to arrange a meeting of Transparency International and other monitoring agencies with the newly formed National Disaster Management Oversight Commission (NDMOC) to evolve a viable strategy to monitor the flood relief funds spending.
He said that monitoring of the public funds is not an international demand but our own people are demanding for such a mechanism so that public funds could be used in a transparent way to the satisfaction of the people at large. He said that the government would ensure spending of each rupee of the flood relief fund transparently, so that genuine affected people could get benefit.
Earlier, Transparency International Pakistan in co-operation with the Pakistan Ministry of Finance recognised that specific action was needed to support transparency and accountability curbing the risk of corruption in the use of relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction funds for devastating flood victims.
Participants belonging to national as well as international organisations endorsed the recommendations set out in the framework chalked out by TI for good practice and stakeholder responsibilities to promote transparency and to curb corruption in Pakistan earthquake reconstruction, which was developed in February 2006 and was distributed among the participants.
Participants underlined the need for a study of the earthquake reconstruction outcome to select best practices for utilisation of funds for future humanitarian disasters. The Sri Lankan case study presented to the workshop on that country’s response to the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami also highlighted potential weaknesses in monitoring which should be taken note of.
Four key recommendations highlighted by participants at the workshop which were also endorsed by the government of Pakistan: (1) The involvement of affected communities, including women and vulnerable and marginalised social groups, in decisions relating to relief and reconstruction at all stages of the process lies at the heart of effective and transparent aid strategies.
The economic capacity and expertise of affected communities as well as local technology and materials should be used wherever possible in delivering relief and reconstruction to reduce cost, ensure appropriate solutions, and assist in economic recovery. Where ever feasible, existing rural community support programmes should be used in relation to land and property allocation decisions, the rebuilding of community infrastructure and the restoration of livelihoods.
(2) Ensuring full transparency in aid flows, allocation, procurement and distribution process, and the national tracking system accessible to everyone are vital. Only access to information on financial flows is, by itself, not enough to improve the transparency and effectiveness of aid flows until the actual outputs of funds used must also be monitored. Donors and government institutions and other implementing agencies, including NGOs, should strive to be accountable to the intended beneficiaries of reconstruction assistance by, undertaking regular community satisfaction surveys. Following actions are required to ensure a robust system of accounting and oversight.
(1) The national tracking system in place and agreed by the government of Pakistan should contain all information from all stakeholders in order to contribute to co-ordinating, monitoring and managing the overall rebuilding effort.
(ii) The system should contain information comprehensive enough to respond to government and donor exigencies yet simple enough to be accessible by affected communities.
(iii) International organisations and donors should support the development and maintenance of the tracking system.
(3) Effective independent monitoring and evaluation is key to ensuring the transparent implementation of relief and reconstruction programmes, including both procurement and service delivery.
Non-transparent or closed/discretionary procurement systems can lead to the diversion of resources away from intended beneficiaries through corruption or non-competitive processes. Effective internal control and external auditing (including real time and field audits) should be complemented by community-led approaches, such as people’s audits, that reinforce accountability towards affected people.
Donors and government and other implementing agencies, including NGOs, should ensure that affected communities are provided with accessible and important information about relief and reconstruction efforts as well as about the relief and compensation benefits they are entitled to. Appropriate formats and local languages should be used to ensure ease of access by such communities.
All flood funds, therefore, must be spent under the Public Procurement Rules 2004, which have in-built transparency and self-accountability and access to information system. Monitoring should include both funds and goods and services received (inputs) and also the use of those resources (outputs).
(4) Ensuring appropriate mechanisms and capacity to capture complaints and enforce anti-corruption measures is also of vital importance. Accessible grievance procedures, including corruption reporting channels and protection for whistleblowers and witnesses, should be provided in the context of relief and reconstruction efforts. In particular, grievance procedures should cover private and public sector employees, the media, and the general public.
Ombudsmen at district level should be in place to enable effective redress of public grievances. A Complaint Hotline shall be established where complaints can be reported on a toll-free telephone number, web, email, fax or by mail, and handled effectively and the use of social media, SMS and other technology should be encouraged. Aid beneficiaries should also be provided access to complaints mechanisms in humanitarian organisations, opening up effective new methods of project evaluation and corruption detection.d.
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