Press Release: Right Of Reply: Joint Statement Of The Civil Society Organizations Reference Group (CSORG), Inter Religious Council Of Kenya (IRCK), And The National Council Of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs Council) On The Proposed Amendments To The Public Benefits Organizations ACT, 2013
THE Civil Society Organizations Reference Group (CSORG), Inter Religious Council of Kenya (IRCK), and the National Council of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs Council) are perturbed by a statement released by the NGOs Co-ordination Board to the media to the effect that jointly with the Ministry of Devolution and Planning; the Board has submitted proposed amendments to the Public Benefits Organizations (PBO) Act, 2013 to the National Assembly.
EQUALLY disturbing is the claim in the statement that the Task Force on the Proposed Amendments to the PBO Act recommended that the law be amended before its operationalization.
WE wish to state that the overarching recommendation of the Task Force as indeed the overwhelming views collected from stakeholders and the general public is that the 2013 Act be implemented without any further delay considering that it was debated, approved and enacted into law by retired President H.E. Mwai Kibaki on January 14, 2013.
Indeed, in all the public hearings that the Task Force conducted throughout the country, all presentations and memoranda submitted by the various stakeholders were unanimous that only immediate implementation of the Act will help consolidate the gains that Kenyans have made in the exercise of their constitutionally protected rights and freedoms of expression, association and participation in the management of public affairs.
In addition to having representation in the Task Force, The CSORG attended and documented on video and audio ALL its regional and stakeholder meetings apart from a meeting with Members of National Assembly. The CSORG has developed a shadow report based on this documentary evidence. The report demonstrates an overwhelming majority of Kenyans asking for the commencement of the Act without any amendments.
IT is quite telling that while the NGOs Coordination Board went out of its way to enumerate some of the organizations that were represented in the Hon. Sophia Abdi Task Force on the Proposed Amendments to the PBO Act, the Executive Director of the NGOs Coordination Board, Fazul Mohammed found it convenient not to point out that he was the representative of the Board in the Task Force as an interested party and, as such, lost the moral ground to spearhead the implementation of the Act that has been unnecessarily delayed for more than two years.
One of the cardinal values and principles of governance articulated in Article 10 of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 that binds all State organs, including State and Public Officers of who the Cabinet Secretary for Devolution and Planning, Hon. Anne Waiguru and the NGOs Coordination Board Executive Director Fazul Mohammed are an integral part is accountability.
YET despite the clarity of such constitutional ethos of governance, the Cabinet Secretary has once again chosen not to be guided by the obviously compelling right of the public whose resources were spent on the Task Force to make the report public, in complete and arrogant defiance of Article 35 on the right of the public and stakeholders to information.
The CSORG, IRCK, and the NGO Council wish to point out that right from the time of their appointments, the Cabinet Secretary for Devolution and Planning and the Executive Director of the NGOs Coordination Board have acted with such impunity against the civil society as though they are above the law, including the supreme law of the land.
A case in point is the obtaining situation at the NGOs Coordination Board where the term of all Directors save for that of the Executive Director expired in March 2015 yet Fazul Mohammed has the audacity to claim that the “Board reviewed the Task Force Report and recommendations and has since forwarded the proposed amendments to the Attorney General and the Clerk of the National Assembly for inclusion in the Miscellaneous Amendments Bill 2015”.
Mr. Fazul Mohammed owes the public an explanation as to who else, other than himself, sat in the Board that “reviewed the Task Force report and its recommendations and forwarded the proposed amendments to the AG and the Clerk of the National Assembly for inclusion in the Miscellaneous Amendments Bill 2015”. His eloquence when deregistering NGOs for not abiding by “due process” is not matched by due diligence when he purports to be executing decisions of a board that does not exist!
It is the position of the CSORG, IRCK, and the NGOs Council that any decisions that the NGOs Coordination Board has made after the expiry of the term of the Board, including the alleged deregistration of some NGOs, are null and void as it is only the Board that is mandated by the law to make public policy decisions.
The letter and spirit of the NGO Coordination Act of 1990 that established the NGO Coordination Board did not envisage the situation now obtaining at the Board, where one man – Fazul Mohammed sits with the Secretariat and claims that whatever decision is made at such staff meeting is a decision of the Board. There cannot be a Board without directors and Fazul Mohammed should be aware that whatever decisions he claims to have been made by the Board are challengeable in Court.
WE, THE CSORG, IRCK, and the NGOs Council wish to reiterate our demand that the Cabinet Secretary for Devolution and Planning comes out of her self-constructed cocoon of impunity and make the report of the Task Force on the Proposed Amendments to the PBO Act public.
It is only through the immediate commencement of the Public Benefits Organizations Act without unwarranted State-instigated amendments that the civil society can consolidate the gains and deepen its collaboration and respectful partnership with the government in serving the public. Immediate implementation of the law will also go a long way in unshackling the NGOs Coordination Board from the current shenanigans and the one-man show that it has become after the expiry of the term of its previous Board of Directors.