NGOs bureau swallowed up by Internal Affairs ministry

NGOs bureau swallowed up by Internal Affairs ministry
Sarah Bireete is the Executive Director of Center for Constitutional Governance

Parliament has approved the mainstreaming of the National Bureau for NGOs as a department under the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Proponents argue the move will reduce bureaucracy and improve oversight, while critics worry about its impact on NGOs' independence and staff displacement.

Peter Okeyoh, Member of Parliament for Bukooli Island, highlighted financial mismanagement as a key reason for supporting the change. He stated,

"Shs4.4bn was given to the NGOs' Bureau for its activities, but of this, Shs3.4bn was spent on rent."

This considerable expenditure on administrative costs has raised questions about the Bureau's efficiency.

Isaac Modoi, Member of Parliament for Lutseshe County, backed the proposal, emphasizing the need for tighter control over NGO activities.

“When you allow NGOs to operate separate from the State, then you will find that the objective of our nation, protection of our people, will be muddled through. So, to me, I think the mainstreaming is very critical and it should be allowed,” he remarked.

However, concerns have been raised about the impact on existing staff and potential dual registration.

Sarah Opendi, the Tororo District Woman Representative, questioned the government's lack of clarity regarding the staff's future.

"The certificate of financial implication that was issued doesn’t tell us how much we are going to save," she noted.

Christine Kaaya, the Kiboga District Woman Representative, expressed worries about the broader implications for NGOs' watchdog role.

"We are battling with the issue of timely inspection. When you look at the NGOs that have annoyed us, that bring in funny money, it will be difficult for timely inspection of their activities and fake monies," she said.

Asuman Basalirwa, representing Bugiri Municipality, noted the challenges NGOs already face in dealing with the Bureau, suggesting that mainstreaming might not address the underlying issues.

"Getting licenses, information, or renewal from the NGO Bureau is extremely difficult. The fact that basic things are a challenge in that Bureau, I don’t think its stay is still justified," he commented.

While the approval marks a significant shift in the government's approach to regulating NGOs, the exact impact of mainstreaming remains to be seen.

Further details on cost-saving measures, staff transitions, and NGO operations are expected as the Ministry of Internal Affairs integrates the new department.

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