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Congoma gags NGO Board

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Council for Non-Governmental Organisations in Malawi (Congoma) has blocked the (Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) Board from implementing new regulations on fees that NGOs are obliged to pay to the board effective January 1 this year.

In December last year, the board announced new fees that NGOs are supposed to pay, which saw some organisations having a bill of up to K2 million— which is the maximum an NGO can pay, depending on their annual income— to settle.

Congoma has been protesting against the new fees regime, despite stakeholders such as Parliamentary committees of Community and Social Welfare and Budget and Finance supporting NGO Board on the issue.

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The council has finally obtained a court injunction restraining the NGO board from implementing the new fees regulation which was announced by the Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare.

Through Mambulasa and Co. law firm, Congoma has also applied for an extension of the commencement of judicial review proceedings and permission to commence the proceedings on the matter regarding the legality of the new fees regulation.

“It is hereby ordered that the applications for the extension of the periods within which to commence judicial review proceedings and permission to actually commence judicial review proceedings are hereby granted as prayed by [Congoma].

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“It is further ordered that an interlocutory injunction is hereby granted to the claimant restraining the [NGO Board] from implementing and enforcing the N o n – Governmental Organisations (Fees) Regulations, 2017 promulgated by [the Ministry of Gender] dated 27th December 2017 pending a further order of this court and or the final determination of the judicial review proceedings herein, as the case may be,” reads part of the ruling in Judicial Review Cause Number 15 of 2018 dated April 6.

In the case filed at the High Court in Zomba, the Attorney General is the third defendant while the Ministry of Gender and the NGO Board are the first and second defendants, respectively.

In its first reaction to the fees hike in January this year, Congoma said the issue was raised at the last Annual General Meeting of NGOs whose minutes were apparently available and that the NGO Board had assured NGOs that there would be consultations on the issue.

“However, NGO Board has gone ahead to implement without consultations with NGOs who are the main stakeholders. Of course, we take cognisance of the fact that the NGO Board has the mandate to determine fees, according to NGO Act, but with empathy,” Congoma said.

The NGOs’ council wanted the decision to be put on hold until all issues were resolved. However, the board went ahead to start implementing the new fees regime.

NGO Board Chairperson, Abigail Dzimadzi, could not pick her mobile phone yesterday.

However, Congoma Trustees’ Chairperson, Benedicto Kondowe, said, essentially, NGOs are not supposed to pay the new fees as the board that is supposed to implement it is operating illegally.

He said: “The issue is that the board was not legally instituted as the law requires that the names of members should be published, which never happened. So, for the time being, the fees cannot be implemented by a body that is not legal.”

Kondowe added that, while the issue of fees being exorbitant is important, it can be handled later after the legality of the NGO Board has been assessed.

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