May 3, 2016 By Regina Pratt
Representatives of non-governmental organisations and other stakeholders last Thursday attended a one day consultative workshop to discuss the NGO Policy of 2009, and proffer recommendations, organised by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development.
The meeting between the representatives of state and non-state actors generated wide ranging discussions around the 2009 NGO policy for Sierra Leone, which many say needs review and enactment into law.
According to Mr. Mohamed Salisu from the Revenue Tax Division, NGO should not just operate in isolation with government projects, noting that if they are building schools and health centres such should be in line with government policy.
One participant contended that attestation should be part of requirements for NGO registration, while another added that NGO proposals should be aligned with broad strategic goals of line ministries and departments and agencies of government.
Coordinator of Sierra Leone Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (SLANGO), Ms Shelac Davies, urged strengthening coordination and monitoring regimes between NGOs and SLANGO.
She said there should be a balanced realistic policy that is anchored on accountability and transparency, while the issue of Goods and Services Tax and other tax incentives should be also deliberated.
Madam Davies called on the government to provide tax incentives to NGOs as the duty waiver committee takes about 15-22 days to decide whether or not to grant a waiver.
A consultant from the International Centre for Not-for-Profit Law remarked that the registration and attestation of NGOs entails a basic idea of who they are and what they want to do, adding that registration is not necessary a government policy.
Dr. Sinead Walsh, Irish Ambassador to Sierra Leone, commended officials at the Ministry of Finance for availing NGOs the opportunity to add their input to the new NGO policy, adding that they want a policy that would create a common ground for NGOs in the country and thus empower civil societies to take active part in the activities of NGOs in the country.
She said civil society space was important because it could foster new ideas, while it is good for government to know the amount of money coming into the country and for NGO’s to work in a friendly environment.
Deputy Development Secretary, Mrs. Nancy K.S. Tengbeh, who read a statement on behalf of the Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, said that following a critical review of past NGO policy regulations – the decree of 1994, draft policy of 2003 and the current 2009 NGO Policy Regulatory Framework – it was discovered there was lack of clarity in definition, eligibility criteria, registration procedures, benefits and taxes in respect of NGO registration.
She said it was against that background that her ministry undertook to revise the NGO policy regulation and guidelines, adding that government recognises contributions made by NGO’s in various parts of the country.
Madam Tengbeh further said that, “We want to scrutinise the activities of NGOs and to address complaints received from the public,” adding that new strategies should be designed to reflect current trend and challenges, such as criteria for registration/renewal, Goods and Services Tax, payment of fees to Local Councils, duty waiver, work permit for expatriates, administrative fees and trade links.