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Compliance With the Law is the Way to Go, says NGO Bureau and Forum

"The provision that lets organizations to either be companies or NGOs was repealed by NGO Act, 2016 and therefore, there is no leeway of operating like an NGO and then registering as a company," Okello says.
02 Sep 2021 16:20
Executive Director of the NGO Bureau Stephen Okello

Audio 4



As the NGO Bureau steps up enforcement of the law requiring all Non-Governmental Organizations to have licences and file annual returns, the Bureau’s Executive Director Stephen Okello and Executive Director of Uganda National NGO Forum Moses Isooba say compliance with the law is the way to go.   

The Bureau started to bite last month, suspending 54 non-compliant organizations over lack of licences, operating with expired licences or failure to submit annual returns. 

The suspended organizations include Chapter Four, Citizens Coalition for Electoral Democracy Uganda -CCEDU, Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies -GLISS, Africa Center for Energy Governance -AFIEGO.

  

Moses Isooba says they have been telling organizations they work with that compliance with law requirements is key. 

“You have to comply whether you like the law or not, you have to comply,” he said an interview. “We are also telling our partners that when you are compliant, then it enables you to engage with the government from a stronger position.”  

To ensure that partner organizations are compliant, Isooba says the have introduced a regular compliance clinic which helps them check on compliance status of organizations.

In partnership with Development Network of Indigenous Voluntary Associations -DENIVA, Isooba says they have also introduced NGO quality assurance certification mechanism which focus on "intra institutional governance” to ensure that organizations are clean and  institutionally heathy, as one way to ensure that as a sector they can insulate themselves from any form of assault.  

But organizations such as GLISS and AFIEGO say they will not register as NGOs. They prefer to remain registered companies. Godber Tumushabe the Executive Director of GLISS which is a think tank, says they are not under NGO Bureau. 

“We are a think tank, we are not an NGO and we don’t intend to be one to the extent that if anybody said we have to be an NGO, we would leave anything that they say is NGO work but they would have to go to court and prove that its NGO work,” says Tumushabe.

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Tumushabe says that for NGO Bureau writing to GLISS as an NGO is a case of mistaken identity. He says they have written to the company registrar seeking clarification on their status. He claims that the NGO Bureau is no longer an agency that promotes the development of transparent and accountable civil society, but is rather focused on consistent harassment of NGOs.    

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But Stephen Okello says that what the likes of Godber are promoting "is arrogance” that will be dealt with appropriately. 

"The provision that lets organizations to either be companies or NGOs was repealed by NGO Act, 2016 and therefore, there is no leeway of operating like an NGO and then registering as a company," Okello says.  

 

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Responding to critics who argue that the ban targeted NGOs in the human rights and democracy sector, Okello said only four of the 54 closed NGOs work in human rights and democracy sector. He revealed that many of the affected organizations are faith based. Okello also says more than 2,300 organizations have been compliant with the law meaning that 54 closed NGOs constitute only 2.3% of all registered organizations. 

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Isooba says NGO Forum is working towards improving government - civil society relationship by debunking false information that always going around depicting NGOs as anti-government. 

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