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Chaos in NGO sector

Chaos has rocked Non-Governmental Organisations Gender Coordination Network (NGO-GCN) and Council for NGOs of Malawi (Congoma) over delays to hold Annual General Meetings (AGM) to elect new office bearers.

This is happening despite the fact that the NGO sector has been advocating good governance in the public sector.

We have learned that NGO GCN was supposed to hold an AGM three years ago while Congoma was supposed to hold one a year ago.

But board chairpersons for the organisations separately said the issue of AGM has been blown out of proportion due to personal hatred.

Malawi News has established that the mandate of the board of NGO-GCN expired in 2015. Some members allege that they have not been communicated to on the reasons for the AGM’s failure.

The constitution of the organisation states that the mandate of each sitting board is three years.

The organisation is the only network dealing with gender and women rights issues in Malawi and has diversity in its membership.

A Google group correspondence of April 16, 2017, 7:05am (which we have seen), indicates that one member, Alick Makiyi, stirred a heated discussion on the issue, pointing out that the AGM was long overdue but the secretariat was silent.

“As we all know that the AGM is part of governance, I would ask the secretariat and the board members to update us on where we are on this important part of running the affairs of NGO GCN….”

“….My worry is that, previously, we had these meetings annually but since 2015 to date [sic], we are not having them. Maybe one of the reasons can be funding or deliberate efforts but we need updates,” reads part of Makiyi’s post.

The post sparked an emotive debate and there was a response from NGO-GCN Vice Board Chairperson, Noel Msiska, who condemned Makiyi for raising the issue on the Google group forum.

“I think it could have been the role of the board and the secretariat to make a formal communication to that effect, rather than opening a social debate. I was also surprised to receive phone calls pertaining to my comments on your (Makiyi’s) email. I am surprised why [sic] it has to be this way? Is it an advocacy being crafted underground?” he queried.

He said that NGO GCN has no special fund to support AGMs annually as it depends on donors’ willingness to support the process, adding that there is an evaluation exercise at the moment.

“If the current board leaves now, as the current advocacy by some members [seems to suggest], who shall provide reference to the evaluation? Will the new board manage to provide reference to something they don’t know? We have just the strategic plan which has taken us more time. Should we leave [an] unfinished document just because of some members’ interest to occupy board positions? We need to approach all this with sober minds. No one is clinging to these positions, and neither are we making ourselves long life,” reads Msiska’s response.

He also said it could be in the interest of all to see the current board leaving the network with strategic direction so that those coming into office are able to drive the network with a strategic focus for the betterment of all.

“The board is aware of the governance system that governs the operations of the network. Being asked whether we are aware of these systems is quite humiliating for the board that has made strides in resource mobilisation and capacity development of members.”

“…it’s been hectic to be in this board much as murmuring [sic] about AGM is concerned. What pains me sometimes is that people prefer to talk about the board overstaying than [sic] bringing resources to fund the AGM full stop,” he said, assuring the members that the AGM announcement would be made soon.

In response, another member, Nelson, queried that it is not stipulated in the NGO-GCN Constitution that, for the AGM to happen, all existing projects have to be finalised for the smooth start of new board members’ operations.

“Is the whole of the [sic] current board not fit for re– election [?] So there will be nobody to take up issues from the outgoing board? Alright, forget my questions— where is the secretariat? Do you want to tell us that the National Coordinator has nothing to do with projects and doesn’t know what was or is going on? ” he questioned.

But NGO-GCN Board Chairperson, Emma Kaliya, dismissed reports that the network has been silent on the issue, saying these reports are fuelled by hatred. She maintained that the board is not clinging to positions as others are implying.

“There are several people (women) who are going around to [sic] media houses and other forums, telling people that our board is there illegally. I can’t just dump things because of such people that [sic] will kill this organisation.”

“It’s very sad that fellow women are doing this. The members are aware of the logistical challenges that have been there but I’m the target. They want to spoil my reputation and tarnish my image, yet I’m looking at the future of this organisation,” Kaliya said.

Kaliya confirmed that the mandate of the current board ended in 2015 but the AGM has not been there due to donors’ delay to fund NGO-GCN, adding that it has been a very long process to request for an extension of expenditure from the donors too.

“Apart from that, the current board has also been working on a strategic plan and was doing an evaluation in order to hand over to the next elected board,” Kaliya said.

Kaliya stressed that she is not interested in the position because of the same hatred issues and that she does not get paid for being board chairperson of NGO-NCN.

“We now have a complete audit report and everything we needed to hand over to our successors. They think we have money but there is no money. We will soon meet to choose dates for the AGM (not because they are talking about it) but [because] this is already planned. One thing is clear though; the position of chairperson is to be filled by a woman,” she said.

At Congoma, the AGM was supposed to take place in 2016 but it was indefinitely cancelled due to financial hiccups.

According to the organisation’s website, annual membership fee is K174, 000 (for local NGOs) and K290, 000 for international NGOs. In the first two years, a local NGO pays K87, 000 and pays the K174, 000 from the third year.

Congoma Board Chairperson, MacBen Mkandawire, said the AGM failed to take place in 2016 due to financial and technical issues and the members are aware of it.

“This is not an issue because this is not the first time an AGM has been delayed. In the past, it took three or four years without an AGM, so why are you trying to make an issue out of nothing?…I know where these issues are coming from and I will not be dragged to comment on that,” Mkandawire said.

Asked further if the delay and unknown dates are against internal governance, Mkandawire said: “We are not a governance body or an organisation promoting good governance. We are just an umbrella body for NGOs.”

NGO Board Vice Chairperson, Maziko Matemba, said the board promotes governance and accountability in the NGO sector.

“If there are internal inconsistencies trust is lost. NGOs need to be exemplary. We are preaching accountability and governance but each organisation has to follow this according to their mandate,” Matemba said.

While acknowledging that he has heard of the issues informally, Matemba said the board has not received an official complaint.

“If, indeed, members have issues, they should write us. We will then institute our own investigations and sort out the issues. These are valid issues but I’m wondering why they have not been officially brought to us. It becomes difficult for us to create an issue out of rumours or unofficial complaints,” Matemba said.

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