, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 21- The government has remained adamant on the proposed changes to the Public Benefit Organisation Act which bars NGOs from receiving more than 15 percent of their funds from foreigners.
Receiving memoranda from a group of civil society organisations, Cabinet Secretary for Devolution and Planning Ann Waiguru said the Bill is meant to streamline the sector to ensure there is accountability and transparency.
“15 percent is not a ceiling; it is actually a base…anyone who wants to receive more can be allowed to apply to the National Treasury if it is in line with government national priorities,” she pointed out.
Addressing journalists on Thursday, Waiguru said the 15 percent requirement was not fixed as groups can apply for more funds if their projects align with those of the National Government.
“The organisations should be philanthropic and are actually driven by the need of people…you form an NGO to address a common need that Kenyans are agreeable about. It’s not about regulation just for the sake of regulations since that will even make them come up with innovative ideas that will make them sustainable,” she stressed.
She said a government regulatory system will not restrain the groups from forming their own internal regulatory systems.
“The reason why the Bill was introduced is to enhance accountability and transparency, “she explained.
Waiguru said the government wanted to ensure accountability in the same way the NGO demands from the government.
Other controversial issues raised by the groups include requirements that any funding of a public benefits organisation be made through a federation and not to individual member organisations.
Waiguru however assured the groups that the government was open to dialogue on the issues.
“As the government we cannot take a decision that will hurt Kenyans,” she affirmed.
Robert Foulser who was speaking on behalf of the NGOs said the issue of accountability and transparency in the sector was not negotiable.
“From the onset, all the stakeholders agree in principle that the PBO Act 2013 and the proposed amendments intend to ensure accountability, transparency and creation of order in the sector,” he said.
On the issue of the 15 percent capping of funds, he said “it should be removed and instead make it a binding requirement to have the receiving organisations declare and report to the authority on the source of the funding and its intended project.”
He noted that, “in order to enhance transparency, accountability and efficiency in the sector, there is need to establish and independent regulatory body void of political interference, to regulate the civil society sector.”
Earlier in the day, a group of activists held demonstrations on the streets of Nairobi demanding withdrawal of the Bill.
The protesters are unhappy with proposed amendments to the Public Benefit Organisations Act.
Kenya Human Rights Commission Executive Director Atsango Chesoni said the Bill will derail the country’s development undertaken by the sector in various parts of the country.
“The government should not curtail money coming to help the needy,” she said.
The Miscellaneous Amendment Bill 2013, published on October 30, seeks to cap the amount of foreign funds NGO’s can get to 15 percent of their budget.
The controversial sections are contained in the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill, 2013 as amendments to The Public Benefits Organizations Act, 2013 (No. 18 of 2013).
Section 27 A (2) states: “A public benefit organization shall not receive more than 15 percent of its total funding from external donors.”
On the other hand, section 27A. (1) States: “Any funding of a public benefit organization shall be made through the federation and not by an individual members’ organization.”
The Attorney General who is the author of the Miscellaneous Amendment Bill 2013, which proposes to amend clauses in the PBO Act, has since defended the amendments saying they were aimed at rectifying conflicting clauses in it.