Non-governmental organisations operating in counties in upper eastern Kenya spent Sh19.9 billion to implement various projects in the 2017-18 financial year.
NGOs Coordination Board Executive Director Mutuma Nkanata revealed that 195 organisations spent the money to fund various community projects in Meru, Tharaka Nithi, Embu, Isiolo and Marsabit.
The director said the NGOs had also created 5,733 jobs during the same period.
“NGOs funded projects in sectors that are key towards realisation of the Millennium Development Goals and Kenya’s Vision 2030. These are relief from poverty, HIV and Aids, health, education, agriculture, and water and sanitation,” Mr Nkanata told participants during a consultative forum between the board and NGO representatives on Monday.
Nkanata said the Government respected the role the NGOs were playing in complementing its development work. He added that the board was working on mending the “strained” relationship with these organisations that had resulted in some firms being de-registered.
Pamoja Action Initiative CEO Muturi Kirimi, however, complained about a lack of support from both the national and county governments.
Mr Kirimi, who heads an NGO that works to empower communities in Tharaka Nithi through agricultural and other economic activities, said a lack of goodwill made it hard for organisations to collaborate with the two levels of government.
“The governments do not appreciate the role NGOs play to empower communities. They are wary of our work because they are political entities. We need to sit down with them so that we can chart the way forward and support each other,” he said.
Kirimi further accused county governments of claiming credit for work done by NGOs.
“One of the biggest problems is that governments hijack our projects for political expediency. When they are not able to take over the projects, they frustrate us.”
Zaverio Chabari from Cepad, an NGO that supports agricultural and environmental programmes, said the distrust between the Government and NGOs was hampering achievement of development goals.
“There is also an element of corruption because county governments ask for funds from NGOs when they fail to secure funding from the international donors that support their activities.”
Nkanata revealed that out of 11,000 NGOs operating countrywide – which spent Sh153 billion on various projects – only 3,000 had filed their annual returns, thus leaving the Government in the dark on their activities.
He said 2,000 NGOs that were de-registered for flouting various regulations, including failure to provide their returns, would be reinstated after they complied with the law.
“Returns are important because the Government wants to understand what the NGOs are doing to contribute to the development of the people. We are partnering with the Kenya Bureau of Statistics to quantify what the sector is doing,” Nkanata said.
“We have embarked on a plan to reconcile the NGO sector with the Government. The board is reviewing the actions that could have contributed to the damaged relations. We are committed to providing a conducive environment for NGOs in our register, as well as those seeking to be reinstated.”
The director extended an olive branch to NGOs that had relocated to other countries after falling out with the State. He added that foreign staff should apply for work permits through the board.
“We want to have meetings with NGOs and consult on how they can comply with the Public Benefits Organisations Act. As a board, we want to support them because of the unique role they play in development.”