CSOs boycott NPO draft bill validation workshop over restrictive provisions

Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have boycotted the Nonprofit Organisations (NPO) Draft Bill Validation Workshop organised by the NPO Secretariat in Koforidua, citing concerns over restrictive provisions that have the potential to stifle their operations. The CSOs indicated that numerous provisions in the draft bill ought to be streamlined because they could limit their ability to effectively advocate for social and economic transformation and address many critical bread-and-butter issues confronting Ghanaians. Speaking to the Ghana News Agency on the matter, a section of the non-government organisations expressed their unhappiness about the current form and nature of the bill and said that the boycott highlighted ongoing tension between CSOs and the government. Mr Raphael Godlove Ahenu, Executive Director of the Global Media Alliance, noted that the draft bill ought to be rationalized to protect their autonomy and preserve their vivacious role in promoting core democratic principles and advancing development. The draft Bill intends to amend the existing NPO Act, 1997 (Act 71 of 1997), mandating non-government organisations to renew their licences every year. In opposition, Mr. Ahenu noted that the civil society space in the country was shrinking, adding that given that many groups are constantly on the government’s back over the problem of growing corruption reports, they would be gagged. ‘When the government passes this bill into law, and assuming… I am always on the neck of the government when it comes to corruption issues – I am always against it, the government can use the NPO secretariat to frustrate me because every year we need to renew our licence,’ he added. Numerous NPOs and CSO representatives from the Volta, Oti, Accra, and Eastern regions that made up Southern Zone Two attended the boycotted workshop scheduled in the Eastern regional capital, Koforidua. The representatives sought more time after and forth with the NPO secretariat to review the proposed bill’s provisions for clarification. This was after the CSOs realised that several provisions were not favourable to?their operations. Participants rejected all pleas to continue with the meeting and pointed out their opposition, particularly, to the clause that read: ‘The President shall appoint the chairperson and members of the Board in compliance with Article 70 of the Constitution, and the Board shall be responsible for ensuring that the Commission’s duties are carried out effectively and efficiently. They also opposed the demand that non-profit organisations choose five members from the sector and refused to continue with the meeting. Mr Ahenu explained that the civil society sector was replete with a lot of politicians and quizzed. ‘How will the process be fair to enable the grassroots organisations to champion the course of other organisations?’ He said the number (five NGO reps) was alright, but ‘the process leading to the selection is not comfortable because it could lead to crowding out the small organisations.’ And, looking at the requirements that must be satisfied before the NPO secretariat grants a licence to function as a non-profit organisation, he noted that most community-based organisations would struggle to meet those criteria. Mr Samuel Dodoo, Executive Director of Media Response Ghana, voiced his concerns over the government’s perception of non-governmental organisations and their role in conducting real-time research and disseminating information to the public on actual economic events. He also said many provisions of the bill have the tendency of ‘gagging’ vibrant civil society organisations like the Centre for Democratic Development Ghana, the Institute of Democratic Governance, and many other vociferous organisations. The NPO Secretariat is a state-owned entity established under NPO Policy 2020 and NPO Directives 2020. It has taken over the Department of Social Welfare’s registration function and is responsible for regulating and empowering Ghana’s non-profit sector.

Source: Ghana News Agency