Local NGO’s call for enabling environment

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Even as they meet to draft a legislation to regulate Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO’s) in the region, those in the voluntary sector are agitating for the government to create an enabling environment in which they can function.
Representatives from the various organisations who attended a two-day workshop this week have argued that NGOs play a very significant role in the development of a country and the requirements that they have to meet in order to operate should be simplified.
They have emphasised the need for measures that provide a clear definition of what constitutes a non-profit, reduction in the time, cost and the information required to register an NGO.
Roberta Williams, executive director of the Gilbert Agricultural and Rural Development Centre (GARD), said that in order to be registered, the NGO had to pay $2,500 to facilitate the process, and the registration could be tedious without the assistance of a lawyer.
She also said that another crippling aspect is that the amount has to be paid on yearly audits.
Williams said it that takes over $20,000 to audit the accounts for the GARD Centre.
“What NGO can afford that? Fortunately, we have people that believe in our mission and cause, and they are willing to assist us,” Williams said.
The GARD Centre provides vocational training and business advice to help vulnerable young people gain employable, technical and entrepreneurial skills.
Meanwhile, Gisele Joshua, an executive member of Breast Friends Antigua, said that her organisation lost grant funding because their accounts were not audited.
She said that they have since learned that they will be able to merge with other organisations to get assistance.
Others who shared their experiences during the forum held at the Multipurpose Centre said that they found registering as an NGO very tedious.
A handful has also noted that they are still waiting for the process to be completed.
(More in today’s Daily Observer)

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