Nepal bans officials from accepting sponsored trips from consultants

09 May 2018 Authored by Consultancy.asia

Having received an official endorsement from the cabinet last week, the Nepalese government has introduced the Foreign Visit Management Directive, which forbids government officials from making business visits abroad under the sponsorship of external consulting firms working with the government.

Nepal’s Office of the Auditor General recently released its 55th annual report, which revealed a number of instances where government funds were misallocated. Among a number of irregularities – including the allocation of development funds for party interests – the report found that public officials were commonly making unnecessary trips at the expense of external consulting firms.

According to Tulasi Prasad Sitaula, a former senior official at the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority, it is commonplace for government agents to go on trips abroad for pleasure, at the expense of consultancies engaged in public-sector projects, usually in return for favours and the benefits of government influence.

Ban on foreign visits for Nepalese government officials

In order to curb this practice, the government has devised the Foreign Visit Management Directive (FVMD), which places a number of restrictions on official visits. One of these, as explained by Joint Secretary at the Prime Minister’s Office Hari Panthi, is that “any government official willing to visit abroad should fulfill certain objectives for the nation. They will have to submit reports specifying lessons learnt and how Nepal can benefit from their experiences abroad.”

If such a report is not produced, or does not offer conclusive results, the official in question will be barred from business trips abroad for a minimum of two years. The directive also extends to state visits, wherein all bilateral and multilateral visits abroad must first be cleared by the foreign ministry. These visits will also require reports from now on.

In this regard, the FVMD is more stringent compared to the existing policy around foreign trips, which is already fairly strong, but only pertains to NGOs. Under current stipulations, no government official, irrespective of their rank, can make a foreign visit under funding from a domestic or international NGO, bar the United Nations.

Instead, in the event that government officials are required abroad for their expertise, the government will sponsor the trips itself using state resources, which will eliminate the conflict of interest and preserve the neutrality of civil servants.

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