Regulations governing NGOs need to be simplified

According to a recent letter in the local media, “people of questionable character are forming NGOs and going around the world under false pretence, professing to be doing all kinds of good service in Guyana when in reality no one in Guyana is benefiting from these entities”. In some cases, they have never been heard of here. Many of these institutions are collecting millions of dollars from members, donors, foreign and local governments, but there is no accounting of how this money is being spent.
Many NGOs in Guyana do not comply with either their own constitutions or the Friendly Societies Act which governs their operations.”
The Caribbean Voice is a New York-registered NGO and not-for-profit organisation with almost two decades of experience in activism. And from the very inception, collaboration has been the pivot on which we have been operating. Thus we have collaborated with the New York City Department of Education to sponsor an essay context for students; with NBC TV and the Caribbean American Chamber of Commerce and Industry to raise funds for Caribbean hurricane victims; have held highly successful business and international awards; have published The Caribbean Voice magazine and newspaper for over a decade; have helped other Caribbean NGOs in the diaspora in myriad ways, including mediating internal problems and collaborating with other NGOs on social issues activism, especially abuse and suicide.
Thus when we decided to launch our Suicide Prevention campaign in Guyana, we used the collaborative approach with the National Suicide Prevention and Related Issues Conference held in August 15 in Georgetown, and this was attended by over 75 stakeholders nationally. We have since collaborated with numerous entities, NGOs, faith-based and community-based organisations, local and regional governments, mass-based and special-interest groups, and fellow diaspora NGOs.
All NGOs we have worked with are manned by volunteers who are caring, passionate and dedicated; who give so much of their time, effort and resources to make a difference every which way; and who are generally transparent with respect to both their work and the funds generated for such work.
So while there may be “People of questionable character professing to be doing all kinds of good service in Guyana when in reality no one in Guyana is benefiting,” TCV has no experience of such. If the letter writer is aware of such, we urge that he reports them so they can be brought to task before creating significant harm.
However, we are aware of entities registered as businesses but are promoting themselves as NGOs, and of a handful of individuals for whom social activism is a fashion statement and an ego-boosting excursion.
Also, we are aware that the cumbersome and burdensome Friendly Societies Act has brought a number of NGOs to a standstill, while impeding the work of others. So we believe that the regulations governing NGOs need to be simplified, and the registration process made easier and less demanding. Thus three persons should be sufficient for registration purpose, instead of the stipulated minimum of seven. As well, the process should easily facilitate not-for-profit and tax-exempt status, which is currently not the case. And there should be a simple procedure to facilitate diaspora-based NGOs to operate in Guyana as well as to set up local branches of their organisations. Currently, over 100 diaspora-based NGOs operate at some level in Guyana.
TCV also suggests there should be oversight to ensure registered businesses do not project themselves as NGOs, or fundraise as such. In fact, we also suggest establishing a data base/registry of NGOs, so all NGOs can be easily tracked and monitored and so that stakeholders’ collaboration can easily be built for any aspect of activism, such as suicide or abuse prevention, for example. This database/registry should be available to the public.
All NGOs should also lodge copies of their constitutions with the relevant Ministry, and user-friendly mechanism should be set to facilitate complaints and quick and conclusive investigations. While we do absolutely agree that transparency and accountability must be in place, we suggest that monitoring be standardised, so as not to be onerous and breathing- down-the-neck demanding. As well, anyone who supports charitable work and social activism via any NGO should not only have the right to demand accountability, but should be able to access same via the database/registry.

About caribvoice

Free lance journalist, educator and community activist. Guyana born New York based.
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