The scrutiny begins: Govt suspends MoUs signed with foreign-funded organisations

EAD devises fresh policy to monitor NGOs, exempts those working under UN.

Umer Farooq April 14, 2014
Govt suspends MoUs signed with foreign-funded organisations. PHOTO: FILE

PESHAWAR: The federal government has suspended memorandums of understanding (MoU) signed with foreign-funded aid organisations, save those operating under the umbrella of the United Nations, in a bid to scrutinise aid organisations and their activities.

According to officials, the Economic Affairs Division (EAD) has devised a fresh policy to monitor the flow of aid, nature and area of work of international and local non-government organisations (NGO) receiving foreign funds.

The officials, requesting anonymity, said several NGOs were served notices to renew their agreements with the government since some of the MoUs had been signed decades ago for indefinite time periods.

“We have around 2,000 NGOs, both foreign and local, in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) alone, so one can estimate the total number of these organisations across the country,” an official said, adding some of these NGOs signed their agreements with the government in the 1970s. “The reason for cancellation of agreements is to streamline the activities of all aid organisations,” the official said.

An earlier letter issued by the Ministry for Interior had stated that the ministry will be dealing with cases of foreigners visiting prohibited areas of K-P while the provincial home department will process cases for the remaining areas, including those in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata).

“All NGOs will approach EAD which will then forward their recommendations to the interior ministry for granting a no-objection certificate (NOC),” the letter states.

It also stated that the K-P home department and Fata will seek clearance from security forces and intelligence agencies for NGOs not registered with EAD, which once received, will be valid for a year. In case the clearance is not obtained within 30 days, it will be presumed that security forces and agencies have no objection, read the letter.

On November 28, 2013, EAD introduced a policy for regulating organisations receiving foreign funding. The policy stated that the registration of an NGO will be on the government’s specified terms and be shared with the interior ministry, provincial governments and other relevant stakeholders.

The notification of the policy, a copy of which is available with The Express Tribune, reads that the duration of the MoUs will be for five years and shall include all relevant data including the nature of work and the geographical locations proposed for the work. It adds that violation of any provision of the MoU may lead to the annulment of the agreement followed by legal proceedings.

The organisations, according to the notification, will have to provide an annual report of their activities, details of bank accounts, all foreign contributions and also maintain their accounts under internationally recognised accounting standards. It adds that the organisations will be bound to provide the necessary information to authorities from time to time.

Additionally, the notification states that the aid organisations may be exempted from all or any of the provisions for a maximum period of six months in case of a disaster or an emergency in public interest.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 14th, 2014. 

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