CONGOMA to seek court injunction on NGOs fees hike

Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in the country have mandated their mother body Council for Non-Governmental Orgamisations (CONGOMA) to seek a court injuction or hold demostrations if dialogue with
government on hiked annual fees that NGOs pay to NGO Board does not yield desired results.

Duwa: CONGOMA does not agree with government decison to uphold the fees hike for all other categories of NGOs

In an update to NGOs dated March 20, 2018 CONGOMA says regional meetings that the body conducted recently recommended obtaining a court injuction and holding peaceful demonstrations as the next course
of action if the government does not reverse the fee hike.

“We are re-considering resumption of dialogue [with government] as a soft landing approach to both sides… but are seriously considering other options as per NGOs recommendations,” reads the update.

CONGOMA also says it will also convene an Extra-Ordinary General Assembly for its members to deliberate on the fees hike and NGO policy

The NGO body has already engaged Ambassadors, High Commissioners, the United Nations and Parliament in Malawi on the fees hike saga. CONGOMA wants the fee hike reversed, saying it is not viable for NGOsas most of them will be closed down for non-payment, thus shrinking space for civil society in the country.

But in a letter addressed to CONGOMA dated February 13 , Presidential Advisor on NGOs and Civil Society Mr. Mabvuto Bamusi informed the NGO mother body that government has resolved to suspend fees hike for NGOs
who fall within the annual income bracket of K’0 to K100 million only while the rest of the NGOs will pay the new fees.

But CONGOMA rejected the decision by government, describing the gesture as “piecemeal” approach and an attempt to divide and rule the NGOs In a letter dated February 19, 2018 addressed to  Bamusi, CONGOMA
Chairperson Steve Duwa said while NGOs “deeply appreciate” the consideration from government to suspend the fees hike for the above category, CONGOMA does not agree with government decison to uphold the
fees hike for all other categories of NGOs.

“As such our position still remains that NGOs will not pay the hiked fees. This applies even to category (A) as outlined in (1) above, that they are advised not to pay until we have a holistic and inclusive approach as opposed to piecemeal on fees reduction,” said  Duwa in the letter.

CONGOMA has, therefore, requested government to cancel the fees hike for all categories; allow all NGOs to pay the old rates of fees for now which they can afford and that CONGOMA and government engage in thorough discussions on the subject matter to reach at an amicable position. CONGOMA has also rejected a decision by government to impose service charges on certain services that should be accessed by NGOs in the course of their work, saying the move is duplication and lack rationale.

“It is our hope and belief that government, through your office, will give feedback as soon as possible so that we resolve this issue speedily, without confrontation and start to concentrate our efforts at serving the people of Malawi,” said Duwa in the letter.

However, Bamusi, in his letter said, the suspension of the fees hike for NGOs in the K’0 to K100 milion category was meant to support majority of the NGOs who require more space and flexibility for their growth and expansion.

“The measure is also in line with the commitment made by His Excellency Prof. Arthur Peter Mutharika to expand civil society space, promote the role of NGOs in our collective development efforts, and protect the interest of human rights defenders,” said Bamusi in the letter.

The “piecemeal” suspension of the fees hike by government follows a meeting CONGOMA officials had with a government team comprising representatives from Ministry of Gender, NGO Board, Ministry of
Justice and the Presidential Advisor on NGOs and Civil Society on February 19 2018 at Golden Peacock Hotel in Lilongwe.

In an earlier statement to the media, CONGOMA had described the fees hike by the NGO Board of Malawi in January this year as “illegal and ill-conceived”.

In the statement, CONGOMA said it was dismayed at the implementation of the new fees without proper consultations with NGOs as stakeholders. CONGOMA had further called for withdrawal of the new fees and that
NGOs should be allowed to pay old rates until all issues surrounding the raise are resolved.

CONGOMA’s considered view is that Government is already aware that most NGOs cannot afford the fees and as such will close down. We take this fee hike as one of the efforts by government to further and lastly close civil society space and is bad for democracy,” CONGOMA had warned in the statement.

It also accused government of introducing laws and policies to “manipulate NGOs” and stifle NGO space as well as tactics of divide and rule.

But the NGO Board had justified the fees hike, saying it would level the playing field and lead to restructured annual restoration fees by applying 0.2% of the total audited income of every NGO operating in

The Board said the current flat fees structure that NGOs are paying makes small size international NGOs pay more in comparison with bigger local NGOs

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