Tuesday, May 5, 2009
1307 NGOs in Sri Lanka: While 357 of them are foreign NGOs and 950 are local NGOs. ...!!!
Director, The National Secretariat for Non-Governmental Organizations, Douglas Nanayakkara.
Reining the NGOs, INGOs
Certain standards are required to regulate these organizations. The standards should be included the Constitution with minimum requirements decided by law. This is the basic paper which governs the entire process of the organization.It also requires certain financial standards such as Sri Lanka Accounting Standard to ensure that all the accounts are being prepared in a uniform manner with utmost transparency. There should be a law to wind up an organization, to take action against any erroneous act or malpractice of an organization and the persons involved.
A 29-year-old law cannot meet the present day demands when it comes to Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs), said Director, National Secretariat for Non Governmental Organizations Douglas Nanayakkara, in on interview with the Daily News.
Q: Why it is necessary to bring a new Bill on INGOs and NGOs ?
A: Like any other sector, there are bad hands coming into this field. This may be involved with corruption, misuse, illegal activities, anti Government activities and similar things. The other issue is the amount of funds they collect and their distribution.
How much funds they transfer to the beneficiaries, how much they use for their own organizations and how much funds disappear has to be ascertained. Therefore, there should be a mechanism to record all these important information.
Certain standards are required to regulate these organizations. The standards should be included the Constitution with minimum requirements decided by law. This is the basic paper which governs the entire process of the organization.
It also requires certain financial standards such as Sri Lanka Accounting Standard to ensure that all the accounts are being prepared in a uniform manner with utmost transparency. There should be a law to wind up an organization, to take action against any erroneous act or malpractice of an organization and the persons involved.
The other most important part is ‘service delivery’. The service delivery has two parts; the services and beneficiaries. Standards should be set for service delivery with the intervention of Government agencies. Government agencies should provide certificate of quality assurance to these organizations.
The organizations should reveal who the beneficiaries are and their details to ensure that benefits have been actually delivered to the intended beneficiaries. Corruption and malpractice can be minimized only through a proper system.
Q: Briefly explain the existing law on NGOs.
A: Since 1980, there has been instances of legal developments in the country with regard to the NGO sector. The basic law that is in force today is known as `Voluntary Social Service Organizations’ (Registration as a provision)Act number 31 of 1980. This law was amended by Amendment Act No. 8 of 1998.
Again a regulation was issued in 1999, under the Commission of Law by the then minister. Meanwhile, through a Cabinet decision, the National Secretariat of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO Secretariat) was established in 1997.
Then in 1999, the President’s Circular was approved by Cabinet which was drafted by an official committee along with a number of recommendations. That circular was a landmark development in the history of law relative to NGOs which was on registering and monitoring of NGOs.
The circular was provided for registration of NGOs at District and Divisional Secretariat offices. The NGO Secretariat registers all national level NGOs while District Secretaries and Divisional Secretaries register other NGOs.
There was a clear increase in the number of NGOs following the tsunami.
In the recent past, the Finance Ministry Secretary issued a number of circulars. Defence Secretary and the Internal Administration Ministry Secretary also issued important circulars. This is the legal base we are having now in connection with NGOs and we are operating based on these laws.
The 1980 law was adequate to govern the NGOs only under the scenario that prevailed in 1980. But now the situation has changed a lot. Particularly after the tsunami, a large number of INGOs came to Sri Lanka.
The law passed in 1980 in connection with NGOs does not include punishment other than of Rs.250 fine by Courts. Because of this weakness, corrupt NGOs are freely engaged in billions of rupees worth deals and get away only with a fine of Rs.250 without a problem.
There was no provision to terminate the licence of NGOs. Fund raising is another section that is overlooked by the 1980 law. There should be records on how much these organizations raise as funds locally and internationally.
Q: What does International Law say on abuse charities for terrorism?
A: The Security Council Resolution 1373 of 2001 aimed at placing barriers on the movement, organization and fund-raising activities of terrorist groups. UN Member States were encouraged to share their intelligence on terrorist groups to assist in combating international terrorism.
The Resolution also calls on all States to adjust their national laws so that they can ratify all the existing international conventions on terrorism. It stated that all States “should also ensure that terrorist acts are established as serious criminal offences in domestic laws and regulations and the seriousness of such acts is duly reflected in sentences served.
The Resolution established the Security Council’s Counter Terrorism Committee [CTC] to monitor state compliance with its provisions.
It also aimed at restricting immigration law, stating that “before granting refugee status, all States should take appropriate measures to ensure that asylum seekers had not planned, facilitated or participated in terrorist acts.
Further, States should ensure that refugee status was not abused by perpetrators, organizers or facilitators of terrorist acts and that claims of political motivation were not recognized as grounds for refusing requests for the extradition of alleged terrorists.
Q: Was there any change with the number of INGOs, NGOs and their operations after the tsunami?
A: Yes of course. There was a very clear increase in the number of NGOs following the tsunami. Before the tsunami, there were only 850 NGOs in Sri Lanka. This number increased to 1,150 after the tsunami.
Those NGOs came with a lot of resources and troubles. Some of the problems caused by NGOs were there even before the tsunami. At present, there are 1307 NGOs in Sri Lanka. While 357 of them are foreign NGOs and 950 are local.
Q: What forms of corruption and malpractices have been reported in connection with such organizations?
A: The National Secretariat for Non-Governmental Organizations receives complaints from stakeholders of NGOs in connection with various problems. The Secretariat has already appointed an Inquiry Board under the provisions of the existing law. Majority is mainly related to financial irregularities.
And there were some complaint against certain expatriates. There are two investigations going on, on two local NGOs and there are around 10 to 15 pending investigations. All are national level NGOs. Stakeholders and the public can forward complaint to this Inquiry Board.
The governance problems came into question such as accountability, transparency and the role of the law along with responsiveness. The principles of good governance need to be applied to ensure that the NGO sector is well governed. There was another problem in complying with Paris Aid Declaration to ensure the aid effectiveness of the NGO sector.
Governance problems in the NGO sector have become an international issue. Financing terrorism is one such problem that has become a global issue. The Security Council Resolution 1373 of 2001 on combating abuse of charities for terrorism mentioned above shows the gravity of the problem.