Bill to regulate NGOs in the offing

BY: Seth J. Bokpe

Star Ghana Foundation has initiated a move to get a non-governmental organisations (NGO) bill to help regulate the activities of non-governmental organisations.

The bill if passed by Parliament is expected to bring sanity into the activities of NGOs as well promote transparency and accountability.

The Head of the Capacity Development Unit of the West African Civil Society Institute, Mr Charles Kojo Vandyck, who made this known to Graphic Online said the bill was currently undergoing stakeholder engagement.

He spoke to Graphic Online in Accra on the fringes of a shared learning convening alternative funding models for civil society organisations

“Currently, the law enables us to register and the regulation is like a gentleman’s agreement with social welfare. We are trying to make that aspect backed by law. So that you can see which organisations are in good standing,” he said.

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He was however quick to add that while state regulation was important in an era when NGOs were doing self-regulation, laws made to regulate CSO “should not stifle us and stop us from doing our work but rather empower us to help us grow.”

CSO funding

The three-day workshop which brought together 37 participants from Africa, the Caribbean and Asia was meant to provide the platform for the participants to among other things create a space for CSOs to learn and share best practices of mobilising funding through non-traditional approaches.

It was also to provide an opportunity for CSOs to strengthen their knowledge in financial sustainability and alternative funding mechanisms and ultimately develop a guidebook on perspectives and best practices regarding alternative funding methods.

Touching on the objectives, Mr Vandyck in a presentation on the shrinking sources of donor support required that CSOs develop alternative sources of funding to be able to sustain their work.

“We are looking beyond the traditional methods of applying for grants and also thinking about how to internally generate money through monetising some of the services we provide. How do we work with other non-traditional donors like mobilising money from within Ghana?

“Mobilising resources from the private sector on development projects and also creating for-profit businesses and the income from the business is used to support the work of the NGO.

“We are also thinking about social enterprise model which is a business model. It is run like a business but the money that comes from it is used to do a public good.

Not for profit

He said not-for-profit simply did not mean that CSOs could not run revenue-generating ventures but rather there were not shareholders to pay the profit to and the money made is reinvested into the organisation to advance the social cause you are doing.

Earlier in a presentation, he made a strong case for NGOs to move beyond being accountable to only donors but also to the citizens they represented.

“When funds come in, there should be transparency about where the funds are being used for, where the funds are coming from. That transparency means that you should be able to report to citizens and be open.

“The citizens should be able to come and access our documents and see where the funds came from. Internal structures like governing boards should exist. That is important for us to get the kind of support we need from the private sector and they also get value for money,” he said

Ms Mouna Ben Garga, the Civil Society innovation Initiative Programme Officer for CIVICUS, a not-for-profit organisation, said the workshop had become necessary as international donor were putting conditionalities and agendas that were alien to what some CSOs stood for.

“We have agendas for our countries; we understand the needs and those needs are related to the benefit and interest of the citizens of our countries. By switching from the conventional ways, we are thinking about ways to secure our independence,” she said.