The Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) Board of Malawi–a state owned registrar and regulator of NGOs and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs)–on Friday started consultations on the Draft NGO Act Amendment Bill of 2020, giving stakeholders two weeks to give their inputs.
According to the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare–Roselyn Makhumula–the bill will be tabled in the incoming sitting of Parliament.
However, Council for Non-Governmental Organizations in Malawi (Congoma) and National Advocacy Platform (NAP) say the period for consultations is too short.
The Draft NGO Act Amendment Bill of 2020 has replaced the controversial NGO Act Amendment Bill of 2018 which was rejected by the NGO community, saying “the bill had some aspects not healthy for the conducive operating environment of NGOs and CSOs” in Malawi.
Among other things, the bill which was advanced to “sanitize” the NGO sector, sought to transform the NGO Board of Malawi into a more powerful NGO regulatory authority and impose new stiffer penalties and criminalization in case of malpractices by NGOs.
NGOs and CSOs, led by Congoma–a membership umbrella organization and coordinating body for NGOs–complained that the proposed amendment “created a monster regulator and coordinator of NGOs in the proposed NGO regulatory authority with absolute powers and without accountability checks”.
They said “it whittled down the role of Congoma–a registered trust–and grabbed its registered mandate, transferring it to the proposed NGO regulatory authority”.
However, speaking at a consultative meeting in the Capital, Lilongwe, Makhumula assured NGOs and CSOs that the Draft NGO Act Amendment Bill of 2020 is a “good one” as it has addressed their grievances.
“I, therefore, ask for NGOs and CSOs cooperation. The new bill wants NGOs to cooperate with the government in entirety so that we implement projects in line with the government’s development agenda in order to achieve sustainable development,” said Makhumula.
Apparently, there had been dialogue meetings involving the government, NGO Board of Malawi and Congoma–culminating into the Draft NGO Act Amendment Bill of 2020 which encompasses several resolutions, among them, the following;
That Congoma is removed from the principal NGO Act but retain all its coordinating functions that it was performing under the act, that the punitive fees be reduced and that the NGO Board of Malawi should concentrate on its regulatory roles.
However, Congoma Executive Director, Ronald Mtonga, criticized the two-week consultation period, saying it is not enough.
“We cannot have a meaningful consultation if there is no an agreed roadmap for all stakeholders. The period should have been longer. The board should have indicated which tools would be used in the consultation. The process should be all inclusive,” said Mtonga.
NAP Chairperson, Benedicto Kondowe, concurred with Mtonga, adding the new draft bill needs thorough scrutiny of all stakeholders.
“The entire NGO community and other interest stakeholders needed to review the draft bill in order to determine whether the concerns raised based on the the 2018 bill have been fully addressed. Stakeholders need more time to go through the bill so that they are able to give a nod or raise issues that still stand in the way of the law,” said Kondowe.
There was no immediate response over concerns of shortness of the consultation period from the government and the NGO Board of Malawi.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :