While reading an article on accountability of international NGO in the Guardian, the thought of NGOs working in Bangladesh came immediately in my mind. From women empowerment to basic education, NGOs have contributed profoundly in the development of Bangladesh. They have been recognised for their service not only in Bangladesh but outside Bangladesh too.
Moreover, NGOs in Bangladesh have spoken a lot about participation and accountability. It is true that they have contributed to some degrees in creating path towards accountability. For example, NGOs along with other civil society members have successfully advocating for enacting Right to Information (RTI) act. Under the provision of this law, both government and non-government functionaries are liable to provide information if requested.
Furthermore, NGO Affairs Bureau (NGOAB) has great deal of control over NGOs working with foreign aid. NGOs receiving foreign aid provide both financial and activity reports periodically. They tend to involve government officials in the programme so that they get the required certificate to submit before NGOAB at the end of the year.
However, all the members of NGO community are not registered with NGOAB. In fact, NGOAB has little control over most of the NGOs working in Bangladesh. What is about their accountability?
Highest number of NGOs are registered under Societies Registration Act. Remaining NGOs in Bangladesh are registered under following acts:
• The Trust Act, 1882
• Voluntary Social Welfare Agencies (Regulation and Control) Ordinance 1961;
• Co-operative Societies Act, 1925 and
• The Companies Act.
A study undertaken by Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) found out that many government organizations though register NGOs as their associate in order to implement their projects, the registration-providing government offices cannot efficiently monitor them. Those government functionaries however blame weak regulatory framework and lack of resources for weak monitoring of NGO activities at the grassroots.
Are NGOs accountable to communities they work with? It has been argued in the article published in the Guardian, “With few legal and regulatory frameworks setting out how communities can hold NGOs to account, and with even less support for communities to engage in such a process, there is a significant accountability deficit at the heart of international NGOs”. It is partially true in case of NGOs working in Bangladesh too.
To sum up, NGOAB has recently consulted to amend the Foreign Donations Regulation Ordinance. As mentioned before, NGOAB is not the regulator for most of the NGOs. An autonomous NGO Commission has been discussed for a while. Would legislators think of a commission to ensure NGO accountability?
Oli Md. Abdullah Chowdhury has years of experience in community development in Banglandesh & also worked with a UK charity in London.
16 Feb 2012 03:54:23 PM Thursday
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