LAHORE: Charities around town are collecting donations for the flood-affected after Eid, but with little government oversight.
Government officials say that oversight is not the highest priority at present, but implementing a system to regulate non-profit organisations is the only way to ensure transparency in the long run.
Non-profit organisations can register either with the Social Welfare department of the city government or with the Punjab government. Officials admitted that there was little monitoring of such organisations at either of these levels of government.
“Some NGOs personally get thorough, external audits, but generally speaking the government does not monitor them,” said Khalid Sher Dil, the director general of the Punjab Disaster Management Authority.
NGOs registered with the city government must get an external audit each year, said a city government official. “The NGOs raising money for the floods survivors are national, credible organisations. They are doing good work,” said the official, adding that 50 of these were registered with the city government.
But Sher Dil said that the yearly audit was a superficial audit and not a thorough one that would ensure transparency.
Another Punjab government official said there was a lot of potential for corruption in the collection of animal hides after the Eid sacrifice.
“There is a lot of money in hide collection and a huge margin in hide purchases as well. It all gets sent to the leather industry,” he said. “There is no oversight of this, but it is also harder to regulate since these are donations in kind and not in cash.”
Sher Dil said that a non-profit organisation must get a No-Objection Certificate and complete other paperwork to register with the Punjab government, but after that there was no monitoring. “With the current flood emergency, the government did not see the need to require organisations to register or provide audits,” he said. But he added that the government should draw up legislation to ensure that local NGOs and welfare organisations were transparent in their use of funds. He said that the government would get help from the United Nations to conduct three surveys which will form the basis of a database that will eradicate redundancies, that is, ensure that the NGOs are not repeating each other’s work.
He said that regulating the political parties and media houses which were raising funds was a separate issue since they were not usually registered as social welfare organisations.
The city government official agreed that new rules and regulations were needed to improve transparency. He said relief stalls had been banned in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa because of this concern. “If there were proper regulations then the money and goods being given to various charities could be adequately monitored.,” he said.
Umar Cheema of Tehrik-i-Insaaf said his party had conducted transparent, nationwide fundraising efforts through the Imran Khan Foundation. He said that less than one per cent of donations were used to cover administrative costs, which were so low because all the administrators were volunteers. He said the organisation had an external audit done by Ferguson, a private audit company.
Liaqat Baloch of Jamaat-e-Islami said that the organisation had been audited internally and externally. “Typically, our internal audit of the charity wing is more rigorous than the external audit,” he said. He said that the Jamaat complied with the provincial act relating to welfare organisations.
A spokesman for the Minhaj Welfare Trust, which has set up various stalls around town to collect the hides of sacrificial animals, said the trust operated transparently and openly.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 21st, 2010.