Regulating NGO funding

While in broad terms, it has to be welcomed, there are questions whether its application is going to be equitable


Editorial June 26, 2015
A mere 35 per cent of the money that flows into these orgnisations does so with the knowledge of the government, provincial or federal. PHOTO: AFP

Considering the depth of reliance there is on NGOs and INGOs to deliver a spectrum of services in Pakistan, it is surprising how poorly regulated the funding streams are for these entities. The economic affairs secretary has revealed that a staggering 65 per cent of funding for NGOs operating in the country, including madrassas, is unaccountable. Primarily this is because of an absence of appropriate legislation and a regulatory framework that would ensure transparency and accountability. This was revealed to the Senate Committee on Human Rights that is currently investigating the foreign funding of NGOs, particularly those that operate internationally.

A mere 35 per cent of the money that flows into these orgnisations does so with the knowledge of the government, provincial or federal. Legislation is now being introduced that will tighten this loophole, and for the first time require madrassas to be registered under the appropriate legislation as well as be transparent about the sources of their funding and what that funding was spent on. The new law is to be called the Foreign Contributions Act of 2015. While in broad terms, it has to be welcomed, there are questions whether its application is going to be equitable. No government has ever got to grips with the registration of madrassas, and despite the grand aspirations of the National Action Plan, this government is no better in this respect than its predecessors. As for regulation of national and international entities operating in Pakistan — why shouldn’t they be scrutinised? All of them, and not just a few that spark the interest or animosity of senior figures in governance. At the same time, as the government demands transparency from these bodies, it is also reasonable, indeed essential, that the government itself is no less transparent and accountable when it comes to the decisions it makes regarding these entities and the way they operate or are funded. A forlorn hope if recent cases are anything to judge by, and a textbook example of inept governance.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 27th,  2015.

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