NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 24 – Civil Society Organisations have given Devolution Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru a fortnight to implement the Public Benefits Organisations Act, 2013.
The National Council of NGOs, the Inter-Religious Council of Kenya, the National Defenders of Human Rights Defenders and the CSO Reference Group said there was no longer a reason to delay its implementation given the taskforce formed to make recommendations on the State’s proposed amendments to the Act handed over their report to Waiguru a month ago.
“It doesn’t make sense to pass a law in 2013 and almost three years later it’s not yet been put into effect; almost three years later; that’s a child that’s walking,” Regina Opondo, Executive Secretary of the Constitution and Reform Education Consortium (CRE-CO) complained.
The CSOs also took issue with the delay in making the report of the taskforce public with two of its 13 members, Executive Director of the Inter-Religious Council of Kenya Francis Kagema and Chairman of The National Council of NGOs Wilson Kipsang, accusing Waiguru of “sitting,” on the report and questioning her motives.
“It was supposed to be in the public domain immediately after handing over. We went back to the secretariat who were handling it and they said the only one who can give us copies is the CS and we’ve been sending messages, no response. So we’re concerned as people who signed, we’ve also been denied copies. It is interesting. We’ve been in other taskforces and we’ve never seen this,” Kipsang said.
Failure to implement the Act, the CSO representatives said, had hampered their operations and frustrated the government’s demands of accountability from them.
“The NGO Co-ordination Act 1990 is almost obsolete. It’s no longer workable in the 21st Century,” Kipsang said.
And should Waiguru fail to meet their 14-day deadline, they threatened they would resort to either court action, a petition or even protests.
“We’re not beyond pursuing petitions of no confidence in the state on this matter,” Opondo said.
The taskforce mentioned above was formed by Waiguru in December of 2014 “to seek views and review comments from stakeholders including the general public on proposed amendments to the PBO Act; monitoring the process of legislation of the same, and; advising the Cabinet Secretary on implementation of the amended PBO Act.”
This followed protests from CSOs that the proposed amendments to the PBO Act as contained in the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill, 2013, “opens the door to undue State interference in civil society affairs Maina Kiai, UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association cautioned.
The bill as currently drafted, seeks to set the limit on foreign funding of NGOs at 15 percent and have the funds channelled through a Federation, giving discretionary powers to a regulatory authority.
Amendments necessitated, Waiguru argued, “by fragmented, scattered, ad-hoc efforts in responding to social needs and that resources are not mustered and harnessed towards integrated and holistic programmes.”