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Illegal NGOs under fire

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Although some Non- Governmental Organisations demand accountability and transparency from government, they themselves run away from being transparent and accountable by shunning registration with the NGO Board.

About 320 NGOs in the country, which include Malawi Network of Religious Leaders Living with Aids (Manelera) led by Reverend MacDonald Sembereka, Malawi Health Equity Network (Mhen) whose Executive Director is the vocal activist Martha Kwataine, Centre for Development of People (Cedep) under the leadership of another vocal activist Gift Trapence and Malawi Economic Justice Network (Mejn) led by Dalitso Kubalasa risk closure for failing to register with the NGO Board.

NGO Board chairperson Emily Banda confirmed that the four are indeed on the precipice.

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“By not registering with the board, they are not held accountable. All the NGOs are aware of the NGO law that they are required to register with the board failing which they will be operating in the country illegally,” Banda said in an interview.

She said after the organisations are registered either under the Company Act and Council for Non-Governmental Organisations in Malawi (Congoma) they are also supposed to register with the Board.

“Most of the NGOS are running away from submitting their returns. Some donors lack knowledge on the existence of the law, hence they just provide funding,” she said, adding, “we have already written letters to all the NGOs on the matter and the board will also write them new letters to inform them on the decision which the board has made.”

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Kwataine confessed that her organisation is indeed not compliant but said it is in the process of registering with the board.

“We have nothing to hide as an organisation and we are not failing to be accountable. We always conduct audit at Mhen and why should we hide now? There are processes that are followed but the problem is that the NGO board is interested in money and not in creating a conducive environment for NGOs,” said Kwataine adding that nobody would push her to register and submit financial reports without following procedures.

Trapence said the NGO law is very vague and unclear.

“The NGO Act requires an NGO to be registered five times; under registrar general, under NGO board, under Congoma, under Ministry of Gender, under NGO Board, and under additional ministry for purposes of Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).

“For example, Congoma is a membership organisation and is not part of government but it is mentioned in the NGO Act. Secondly, registration and NGO Act is on annual basis, was that the intention of law that NGOs have to re register every year? What is the role of two government ministries? Cedep wanted clarification on this,” he said.

Trapence also claimed that his organisation engaged NGO Board on the matter and they admitted that the law was rushed through in parliament. He, however, said Cedep is waiting for further instructions from the NGO Board.

On his part, Kubalasa said MEJN was in the process of getting registered with the Board. Sembereka was not available for comment.

Speaking at a Gender Links summit, a few days ago, Gender Minister Patricia Kaliati said government would close all the NGOs that are operating without licences.

“These are the same NGOs that are very rude. We will give them 30 days to register failing which they will have their organisations closed,” said Kaliati.

In line with section of 20 of the NGO Act, every organisation that wishes to operate or is operating in Malawi as an NGO must registe

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