Thursday, July 19, 2007

NGO Bill is dictatorial, says Habasonda

NGO Bill is dictatorial, says Habasonda
By Sandra Lombe and Bivan Saluseki
Thursday July 19, 2007 [04:01]

SOUTHERN African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (SACCORD) has said that the Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) Bill is dictatorial. The Bill provides for the coordination and registration of NGOs, establish the NGO's board including the Zambia congress of NGOs. According to the bill, the NGO board shall consist of 10 part-time members appointed by the minister of home affairs.

The members shall comprise two members appointed by the minister, one person each from the ministries of health, home affairs, finance, community development and local government. The chairperson and vice-chairperson shall be appointed by the minister from amongst the members.

The board would register NGOs; regulate their work and area of work and NGOs operating in Zambia.

According to the bill, the board would prescribe the rules and procedures for the audit of the accounts of NGOs, advise government on the activities of the NGOs and their role in development in Zambia.

The board would also provide policy guidelines to NGOs for harmonising their activities to the national development plan for Zambia.

The board shall establish and maintain a documentation centre on NGOs and their activities in Zambia and such other information as might be necessary for the understanding and promotion of the contribution of NGOs to national development.
Under the bill, an international NGO shall not operate in Zambia without registration.

The NGOs are also supposed to indicate among other things proposed annual budgets and sources of funding. There shall be a transitional registration period not exceeding 90 days from the date of the commencement of the Act for the registration of NGOs, which are in existence at the commencement of the Act.

The bill states that it would provide for enhancement of the transparency, accountability and performance of NGOs. But SACCORD executive director Lee Habasonda in an interview yesterday said the bill would put too much power in the minister.
"It is dictatorial. It's limiting space of NGOs. It is not good to enact it at the time Zambia is assuming leadership at regional level," he said. "The bill will limit space for NGOs and is like subtracting from Zambia's good record."

Habasonda said the NGO Bill had been done in a secretive manner. "It was not done in a transparent manner. The AG refused to have a meeting with NGOs. We think the bill being tabled is not in good faith," he said.

"We wish to remind lawmakers that when they leave, they may need to serve in NGOs, they must not make bills for individuals." He said the minister could reject the representatives if he wished.

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