By Dann Okoth
Stakeholders from Non-Governmental Organisations ( NGO) sector are bracing for a major confrontation ahead of a meeting on August 11 to harmonise two controversial Bills that seek to regulate their operations.
The meeting will be held in Naivasha or at the Coast and will bring together the National NGO Council, the National NGO Board, the Heritage ministry and the Parliamentary Committee on Labour and Social services and others.
The forum has been called to iron out differences brought about by the publishing of two conflicting Bills that seek to streamline the NGO sector.
While the Civil Society Organisations Reference Group has published the Public Benefits Organisation (PBO) Bill 2012, the National Council of NGOs has come up with the Non-Governmental Organisation Draft Bill 2012 – the two seek to streamline the sector.
Proper legislation and therefore regulation of the NGO sector could see the sector’s estimated annual Gross Domestic Product of more than Sh250 billion being harnessed to benefit the country and prevent losses estimated at Sh130 billion per year through pilferage.
But it is the sector’s huge potential and prospects that could be its Achilles heels as everyone digs in to have control over the reform agenda and processes with the view to perhaps entrenching vested interests. It would be little wonder that the planned meeting degenerates into a farce as it brings together entities with varied agenda some of which are responsible for problems bedeviling the NGO sector.
“The Bill is a ploy by the rich international NGOs to circumvent the law and operate in a cowboy fashion. The law as espoused in the Bill is a dangerous piece of legislation that would even put the security of the country at risk because it provides leeway for certain organisations to escape State scrutiny,” Wafula charged.
He claims the Bill seeks to kill the National NGO Council but does not make provisions for its replacement, adding that it gives the Government the opportunity to de-register any NGO it deems unfavourable to its course.
“The Bill also proposes that all NGOs be dissolved within a year of the enactment of the law to apply afresh. But the fee would be prohibitive and could see some organisations go under. What about those that were properly registered under the NGO Act? Would they also be required to dissolve,” Wafula poses.
However, the Civil Society Organisations Reference Group believes a new enabling legal environment is essential, as it will ensure good governance, while protecting legitimate civil society activity.