EDITOR’S COMMENT: PVSO changes make sense

the herald

JHERE has come under a flurry of pressure over proposed changes to the Private Voluntary Organizations Act, with many of those opposing it apparently not having read the bill.

The main law, which replaced very similar legislation from the early colonial period, requires the registration and reporting of all voluntary organizations that raise funds from the public.

A private club that depends solely on what its members pay does not count.

Basically, registration requirements are quite simple, in that an organization needs a clearly defined purpose, some kind of framework to manage it, and good accounting.

Going out of focus, having no one at the helm of the organization, and having low quality accounts open up the risk of being deregistered, making fundraising from the public legally impossible.

Religious organizations, such as churches, mosques, synagogues and others, are exempt, as are educational trusts, certain other trusts and many health-related activities.

The requirements of existing law and its predecessors explain why even a church must separate its charitable functions of relieving distress and registering it as a private voluntary organization.

Generally, anything that uses money collected from the public inside or outside Zimbabwe must be able to be managed efficiently and honestly. No one disagrees.

The amendment bill closes some loopholes, allows the investigation of finances in the event of suspicion of money laundering and makes it very clear that certain organizations which considered themselves outside the scope of the law may be required to register.

This provision has always existed, but the bill makes it clearer. Even exempt trusts, if they appear to be acting as PVOs, can be made to become one. There are a large number of private voluntary organisations, and most do excellent and necessary work and are well run, with a number of them having professional accountants among their volunteers in order to be able to present accounts necessary, internally, for contributors and for the monitoring register very easily.

Life would be much more difficult for many if these organizations did not exist.

Much of the organized animal welfare lobbying, caring for the special needs of children, much of wildlife protection, environmental concerns such as wetlands and a host of others pass through these organisations. well managed.

They act, coordinate, publicize issues, and perform many other functions, and generally perform them well.

The Registrar of Private Voluntary Organizations has little to do with this vast majority, beyond receiving annual accounts, filing lists of the last leader and the occasional list of minor changes to their purposes due of changing circumstances.

Much of the opposition to the bill comes from people who oppose a single paragraph, prohibiting these organizations from funding political parties or using their funds to support or oppose a political party.

Opponents say this is already covered by the Political Party Funding Act, and so they are. The interesting point is that since it takes two to tango, the bill dries up the source as well as the recipient of the funds.

For example, a voluntary organization could send money anonymously. Under the bill, he cannot and cannot campaign for or against a party.

This does not diminish political freedom. Anyone can start a political party and it takes little more than telling the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission that you exist.

The commission can prevent you from using a name too similar to an existing party already listed, and your logo must be different from any existing logo.

But that’s about all. Parties can fundraise directly from their members and supporters, but not from external sources. The only loophole the bill closes is to prevent foreigners from laundering their money through a local voluntary organization.

The rest of the bill is largely aimed at responding to the increasing upgrading of accounting standards and preventing criminals from laundering money or sponsoring terrorism through voluntary organizations.

This is part of the general upgrading of banking standards and the rest that we in Zimbabwe, along with the rest of the world, have to live with.

The Financial Action Task Force, set up by the G7 countries, the largest Western economies, is most concerned about these kinds of issues and Zimbabwe was on the ‘watch list’ for a few years while we cleaned up and modernize our banking sector.

The task force still doubts our voluntary organisations, so the push for the finance side of private voluntary organizations in Zimbabwe to use modern standards and allow organizations like the Financial Intelligence Unit to scrutinize the accounts, comes from countries such as the United States, Great Britain and others. .

Again, the overwhelming majority of organizations will have no problem, just maybe having to give more details. In certain cases, where the risks of money laundering are higher, additional information may be required.

The bill focuses quite extensively on these financial standards. But in summary, a voluntary organization escapes a lot if it is very open about what it does, has maximum transparency and keeps good financial records.

It’s hard to be against such moves, since most of them need them anyway to attract public support.

A series of new articles address the problem of an executive who misbehaves or is dishonest. The main law included an article that authorized the suspension or dismissal of the executive. The Supreme Court didn’t like it and threw it out. The bill brings it back, but in an entirely different form.

Now trustees are appointed in these cases, with a High Court judge approving the trustees. The organization remains independent and exists as long as investigations continue, but under the direction of trustees.

We must remember that private voluntary organizations need not be popular or even have the approval of the general public. But they must be clear and open about what they are doing.

It would be perfectly fine, for example, to create an organization that lobbied and lobbied for more LGBTQ rights, as long as that goal was clear, as well as an organization that wanted to build an orphanage, being yet another both clear and open with all the donations received and the hiring of contractors not enriching the executive.

The bill is not a dramatic imposition preventing civil society from functioning. If anything, he wants more in this society.

But what it does do is raise administrative and financial standards, ensure that what an organization says it is there for is what it does, and seeks to ensure that those who want to play a political role join a party or found a party or present themselves as a candidate, rather than hiding behind a front.

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