Minister Makungwa advances dialogue between Malawi NGO Board and Congoma

Minister of Population Planning and Social Welfare, Clara Makungwa, on Tuesday became the first senior government official to tour the newly purchased headquarters of the Non Governmental Organisations (NGO) Board of Malawi in the capital Lilongwe where she promised to help address the board’s challenges including resolving its misunderstandings with the Council for Non Governmental Organisations in Malawi (Congoma).

Makungwa checking a file of an NGO in Malawi NGO Board new headquarters
Makungwa talking to journalists after the tour

There is a long standing dispute between NGO Board of Malawi and Congoma as the latter obtained an injunction restraining the former from implementing new fees regulations that would enable the board to collect more money from NGOs in order to facilitate its operations.

Congoma also obtained an injunction restraining the tabling of the NGO Amendment Bill which, among other things, sought to transform the NGO Board to become an NGO regulatory authority.

The roles of the two entities, that seem to wield the same power over NGOs, are allegedly bringing about these misunderstandings in a certainly longer battle over superiority.

Apparently, NGO Board of Malawi is a state agency which registers NGOs in the country and regulates their work while Congoma is a membership umbrella organization for NGOs–a coordinating body.

“I am looking forward to meeting NGO Board and Congoma officials together. There must always be a way of ending this. It is just a matter of understanding the roles of each of the two agencies,” Makungwa told journalists after her tour.

Malawi NGO Board, which is required to run on fees paid by registered NGOs, currently gets much of its funds from government because the money the board collects from NGOs is not enough to sustain it.

And in the 2019/2020 national budget, the board was apportioned a substantial amount of money from which it spared about MK500 million to purchase a new head office in area 32 of the Capital Lilongwe.

Initially, Malawi NGO Board head office team was reportedly operating from the “corridor” of an upmarket building in the Central Business District of the capital.

After her tour, Makungwa expressed her happiness that the board is still fulfilling its mandate despite the challenges it is facing.

“I will be the most happy minister if, as a nation, we maximize the mandate given to the NGO Board. As a minister, I will work hard in helping to lobby for more support towards the board,” she said.

Taking her turn, Director of Corporate Services at NGO Board of Malawi, Linda Njikho, commended the minister’s visit, saying it has raised hope for more support to the NGO Board by government.

“We intend to develop this office to a conducive space for NGOs where they can be served better while accessing services they require. Some NGOs would even be able to occupy rooms here which they will use as offices,” said Njikho.

According to Njikho, other achievements Malawi NGO Board has also made with the 2019/2020 government funding, include: procurement of five vehicles, recruitment of nine additional staff members, procurement of office equipment and furniture and development and launch of a five year corporate strategy to operationalize the NGO policy.

She banks on Makungwa’s promise, saying the further support will enable the board to conduct a number of activities by 2021.

And these include: opening of 14 more district offices, reviewing of the NGO Act of 2000 and mapping of NGOs at Traditional Authority level.

There are 766 NGOs–546 local and 222 international–that are, at the moment, registered with NGO Board of Malawi which, currently, has branches in six districts, namely: Nsanje, Blantyre, Mangochi, Balaka, Dowa and Mzimba.

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