Keep your accounts to yourself!

The NGO board keeps bringing up the issue of NGOs audited accounts. NGOs are not submitting, because this is confidential information. And they are right.

The NGO board does not have a legal mandate to require these accounts. There is no provision for it in the NGO act.

NGOs have good reason to keep their accounts confidential, while the NGO Board does not have the capacity to do anything useful with them. We all know that government is not keeping its own accounts itself, so a government organization having the capacity to work with other organizations accounts is far-fetched.

ON the other hand NGOs have good reason to keep their accounts confidential: while a lot of government officials and organizations are very cooperative, some are obstructing NGO work. We all know those coordination meetings where nothing gets coordinated and participants are struggling to stay awake, only to become alert when the allowances are being distributed. That’s when the overall objective of the meeting becomes clear: to eat into the NGO’s funds. I have seen budgets where 85% of the budget went into overhead, mainly government meetings, leaving only 15% for the actual project implementation. When NGO accounts fall into the hands of this type of people, it becomes impossible to deliver quality projects.

Also: non-compliance with bad regulation (and in this case illegal regulation) is a form of civil disobedience that does serve a useful purpose. We should not comply with everything government officials do or demand. The days of Kamuzu Banda’s dictatorship, when any government official could pester anyone or any organization are over. These days government officials are accountable to the public, that is paying their salaries (and allowances!)

One reason why so many officials get away with low quality work and sometimes even corruption is that we are too compliant. We should not let ourselves be bullied around. We should protest any irregularities, and any bad regulation. We should be disobedient in strategic ways.

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