State cracks whip on multi-billion NGO sector with new rules

The NGO Coordination Board chairman Fazul Mahamed. (Photo: Courtesy)

Nairobi, Kenya: No expatriate will be permitted to work in any Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) in the country at the expense of a qualified Kenyan, state circular shows.

In addition, all NGOs have been directed to start a salary remuneration exercise as international workers are said to earn up to four times more than their local counterparts in the same positions.

These are some of the regulations detailed in the state circular to NGOs released on Monday that seek to remove the discrepancies existing in the multi-billion sector.

According to the circular, the NGO board shall only issue recommendations to foreign volunteer workers only if the NGO receiving the workers has also slotted the same number of opportunities to Kenyans.

That is, if an NGO receives 15 foreign volunteers there also has to be 15 locals to match the number.

"The board shall only issue recommendations to volunteers whose organizations have demonstrated that an equal number of Kenyans have been offered volunteer opportunities in other countries or organizations," reads the circular in part.

Speaking at a meeting held yesterday with country directors and human resource managers of NGOs, NGO board director Fazul Mohamed said the government had noted of the massive salary discrepancies between local and international workers.

"There is no way one person will earn Sh2.3 million per month just because he is an expatriate yet we have a Kenyan in the same organization earning a meager Sh28,000," he said.

He added: "To make it worse, the expatriate has a house allowance of Sh200, 000, is entitled to relocation allowance, and his children's studies are also catered for. And these are benefits Kenyans are not entitled to."

Mohamed said the board has received tonnes of anonymous complains on the issue: "You cannot tell me that in the whole country we cannot have a Kenyan who can fill the space of the expatriate. We are therefore not giving any permit to expatriates until they (NGOs) prove there is no qualified Kenyan or at least an African who can take up the position."

In Kenya, there are in excess of 10,000 expatriates and another 2,600 who work for regional organizations. Most of them are into charity works that is said to contribute Sh140 billion to the country's economy annually.

"The virtue of working for a charity organization is to volunteer, not to make profits," argued Mohamed.

For regional organizations based in Kenya, they have to seek expatriates from all the African countries they operate in before going abroad.

Also, any expatriate without a valid work permit and or whose work permit or special pass has expired or does not reflect his current job description stands being sanctioned as well as the NGO.

"Many of the expatriates have permits that indicate they work for charity organizations (so they end up paying less as tax) yet they could be running their own businesses," said Mohamed.

But Mohamed was quick to defend the rules saying they are not new and by no way will make NGOs turn to other countries.

"These regulations are in the Immigration Act of 2012 and NGO Act of fact, instead of relocating, we expect to see NGOs pump in more money to increase local capacity," said Mohamed.