January 14, 2014 was exactly one year since the Public Benefit Organizations (PBO) Act, 2013 was passed into law. But the day’s passage was rather unremarkable. Neither the civil society nor the National Governmental Organizations Coordination Bureau charged with coordinating the sector observed the day. A visit to the Bureau offices on the material day confirmed my fears that the office may not have been aware of what ought to have been an auspicious occasion. Most of the Bureau’s staff members were reportedly out of the office, burning the midnight oil to meet some performance contracting deadlines.
The recent appointment and subsequent swearing in of Cabinet Secretary for the Ministry of Planning and Devolution Anne Waiguru has set the stage for the commencement of the Public Benefits Organizations (PBO) Act, 2013. The PBO Act is one of the pieces of legislations passed by the 10th Parliament just before its term lapsed in January 2013. The law provides for the establishment and operation of public benefits organizations previously known as Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs).
The Public Benefits Organisations Act 2013, the new regulatory and administrative framework for non-governmental organisations expected to come into force soon, provides for the establishment of an authority to be known as the Public Benefits Organisations Regulatory Authority.
There have been many things said about NGOs and a lot of what has made it to the public space has been hostility. Perceptions about the sector include the fact that NGOs answer to foreign donors and thus have no local interests, that the sector is full of fraudsters, that it is a get-rich-quickly personal poverty eradication programme etc.
The sector workers and operatives have not helped matters – what with the wrangling, the presence of several NGO Councils, the prevalence of people who form organisation and get money from donors and then don’t do what they propose to do. The sector has had a bad name. The multiple registration regimes for civil society groups was big blessing since the KANU era stifled the operating environment and curtailed the operation of these organisations.