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Govt wields stick on NGOsWritten by Mohammad Reza Gulkohi and Ibrahim Mehdawi
Saturday, 28 January 2012 16:34
Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are being called to account by the government. The Ministry of Economy cancelled the registration of almost 800 Afghan and foreign NGOs.
Minister of Economy Abdul Hadi Arghandewal, said 195 foreign NGOs were among those "disbanded for not either submitting their reports or for complying with rules for registration".
Arghandewal added if "NGOs don't submit their activity reports in 6 months or their financial reports are not sent regularly for two years, the NGOs will be counted inactive." The minister did not say when the order would be implemented.
Mohammad Hashem Baseerat, director of the NGOs department in the ministry, said a total of 744 NGOs stand dissolved. Previously "they (ministry) dissolved 1,300 national NGOs and 121 international NGOs in the first phase before the enforcement of the NGOs law due to non-completion of the registration process."
Since the implementation of the law, the government has shut down more than 670 domestic NGOs and 104 foreign NGOs.
The main reason for the crack-down is the NGOs' failure to submit the yearly financial and six-monthly progress reports that are expected by the ministry. Defaulting NGOs are given a grace period of one month to comply with the rules, failing which their registration is considered cancelled.
The Ministry of Economy has been claiming it has not been able to effectively supervise NGOs because of the absence of a human resources department in the ministry.
Economist Mahmud Noori who teaches at Kabul University said, "Lack of supervision of NGO activities has created problems." However, he clarified NGOs have played an enormous role in providing public and humanitarian services. While there is need to supervise them, the government too must ensure that their work is not hampered by problems of corruption and their workers are not exploited and victimised.
"If the activities of NGOs are assessed over the last 30 years, generally they have accomplished big services which should be appreciated and Afghan people are pleased with," he said. "But when the supremacy of the law is weak and the activities of NGOs in the community are not supervised, naturally the NGOs will deviate from their main route. They will not stick to their commitments."
Some of the banned NGOs have complained the government decision has less to do with the enforcement of rules than personal vendetta.
Ahmad Zia who heads Development of Agriculture Industry Resources of Afghanistan, a NGO institution on the disbanded list, said the decision was more likely because he had not paid bribes. The Ministry of Economy's decisions are personal, and it causes disruption in the work of NGOs he alleged.
"The dissolution of NGOs has negatively affected economic development and implementation of projects," he said.
Economy Minister Argandewal has rejected the claims, and said administrative corruption and lack of transparency were the reasons for the blacklisting of NGOs. "Investigation of the NGOs will take place both at the central (Kabul) and provincial level to prevent exorbitant and unnecessary spending. All NGOs have been asked to submit CVs of expatriate staff to the Ministry of Economy," he said.
According to the minister, "If there are Afghan specialists who have the skills, the NGO can save on exorbitant salaries for expatriate staff." The government's scrutiny of NGO accounts show that 60 percent of the budget is spent on administrative needs. This skewed budgeting will not be allowed, and NGOs that do not accept rules of the Ministry of Economy will be forced to close, the minister has warned.
Strengthening human resources
Sayed Mohammad Sultani of the NGO, Building New Afghanistan, thinks some of the disbanded NGOs were unable to keep up with reporting commitments made to the government because of lack of human resource capacity. NGOs with skills to raise funds, implement projects and complete project reports are successful, he said. As a result of the lack of transparency in the work of some NGOs and administrative corruption the government has been able to cancel their registration, he said.
Mohammad Hashem Mayar, deputy head of ACBAR, which coordinates NGOs in the country, estimates 72,000 people are employed in the non-governmental sector, "most of them are young". He claims, "NGOs get a large amount of money through proposals for the rehabilitation of Afghanistan in the centre and provinces. Some of the NGOs are involved in administrative corruption and have transferred enormous amount of money (international aid) out of the country."
Hundreds of NGOs have registered in Afghanistan to implement projects funded by international donors in the last 10 years. The records show there are 1,600 active domestic NGOs and 300 foreign non-governmental organisations.