‘There was a total lack of seriousness in managing disaster’ – RAA
| Kinley Dema, Thimphu
National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), the nodal agency for disaster management in the country, has failed in implementing its plans and policies. It is included in the lists of the agencies that the Royal Audit Authority (RAA) had lashed for finding series of shortcomings and lapses in its functioning.
According to the RAA, as per the section 19 of the Disaster Management (DM) Act, ‘the NDMA as the highest decision making body on disaster management shall meet at least once every six months.’ However, despite the requirement of the Act, the NDMA had held only two meetings so far.
The RAA noted that the agency had delineated roles and responsibilities of various agencies involved in disaster management. However, it was neither carried out and nor was there any follow up to verify the status by the Department of Disaster Management (DDM).
The second lapse stated in the report is non-existence or non-functioning of Dzongkhag Disaster Management Committee (DDMCs). It has been noted that most of the dzongkhags have not initiated the formation of DDMC despite written instruction from the government dated 15th may 2014, and also found out that many of the dzongkhags has not formed the committee.
No dzongkhag administration had carried out any function as laid down in the Act, thereby violating the roles and responsibilities of the act, the report states.
The report further states that dzongkhag administrations have not even convened a single meeting to coordinate and manage the disaster related issues in their jurisdiction, and also that they have not adhered to the instruction of the government.
“Such inaction to the provision of the Act indicated a total lack of seriousness in disaster management in the country by all parties concerned,” the report states.
Non-constitution of Inter-Ministerial Task Force (ITMF) is another shortcoming. Despite the requirement of the act and importance of such team, NDMA and DDM had not finalized the constitution of IMTF even after two and half years since the enactment of the DM Act.
The RAA report also mentioned that the lapses include non-recruitment of dzongkhag disaster management officer (DDMO). It was observed that DDMO has not been recruited as of date in any dzongkhag as required under the DM Act 2013.
“Most of the inefficiencies in disaster management at the dzongkhag level are attributed to the absence of a proper DM focal person,” the report states.
The report further states that meetings and correspondences held between DDM and Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) indicated that the DDM had initiated the recruitments of DDMOs but RCSC did not encourage it on the principle of ‘small, compact and efficient’ civil service.
It is also found out that lack of fund and frequent change in the focal person is the primary reason for not being able to carry out the functions that are in DM Act.
The lack of national disaster management plan is another lapse. The DM Act requires preparation of disaster management and contingency plans at gewog, thromde, dzongkhag and ultimately at the national level.
However, the reports also shows that out of 205 gewogs, the disaster and contingency plan was initiated for 26 gewogs as of date and the gewog disaster plans were found out to be prepared primarily by the village folks with some assistance from focal person on disaster management.
And in the absence of the strategic planning and the lack of expertise at the gewog level, the implementation of bottom up approach to disaster management planning has been rendered difficult, the report states.
It is mentioned in the report that lack of disaster management unit in agencies contravenes a provision of the Act.
Although the Act necessitates coordination among the agencies for an integrated disaster management, it has been observed that there was minimal or no coordination, thus, resulting in lack of effectiveness in combating disaster.
Absence of hazard zonation maps and vulnerability report is another shortcoming. RAA noted that as of date, there is no fundamental baseline data on disaster in the country. In absence of such primary information, RAA could not authenticate and ascertain how the isolated and piece-metal activities would ultimately result in macro-objective of building a safe and resilient nation.
The report also pointed out that there was lack of central database system on disaster management. At the moment there is complete lack of information at the central level due to which the RAA faced tremendous difficulties in gathering even basic information on disaster management.
The report shows that fire safety in the dzongs and the public buildings such as hospitals, government houses and offices are either absent or minimal.
As per the Act, ‘there shall be a National Emergency Operation Centre (NEOC) established by the DDM including Dzongkhag EOCs. These EOCs are meant to be the primary information and coordination centre for management of disaster, especially during the times of disaster. However, RAA found out that no EOCs had been established till date.
Irregularities in management of equipments were also revealed by the RAA officials. Inadequacies and inconsistencies in funding arrangement support for disaster management was also included in the audit findings.