Anna-Lisa Paul and Bobie-Lee Dixon
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NGOs, CBOs answerable to Integrity Commission
Officials of non-governmental and community based organisations attending yesterday’s T&T NGO Professionals Conference 2012, held at the Hyatt Regency Trinidad left the seminar stunned on learning they fall under the Integrity in Public Life Act which makes them answerable to the Integrity Commission. This was because their organisations were governed by an act of Parliament.
During the presentation of Sterling Belgrove, director of the Rose Foundation with the theme: Who’s In Charge Here? Governing A Successful and Effective Organisation, participants learned, “It was never intended for it to be so, but in a slight in the law you come under the Integrity Legislation.”
“So the directors of organisations incorporated by an act of Parliament, they should be filing their Integrity returns.” Belgrove added: “Now here is what, because it is political suicide, they have not been pursuing it. But remember, if it is the law, then you have to comply to the law. What does it take to invoke the law? And when the law is invoked, then what is likely to be your position?”
Belgrove added: “No one within the Government of T&T knows to whom an organisation incorporated by an act of Parliament reports. Not even the parliamentary secretariat can tell you that! The Ombudsman cannot tell you that. Nobody knows. You cannot report to the Register General, because you’re not under the Register General. It’s a headache for the Government because we have never paid attention to who these organisations report to, but they do know they fall under the Integrity Legislation.”
He made it clear that being a not-for-profit organisation did not mean their organisation had to be poor and there was nothing wrong with them having healthy bottom lines, citing that such organisations should have proper business models, responsible managerial practices and accountability safeguards.
“This is what we have a challenge with in T&T. We are a not-for profit organisation. We poor. So we are not supposed to be rich and wealthy, but not-for-profit organisations is part of what we call social enterprise. We must engage in social investment. We have business paradigms (and) business models.
There must be a return on investment whether its qualitative or quantitative. How are we going to build the organisation and how are we going to provide for it. We have to shift the paradigm from saying we poor and we (are) supposed to be begging. The capital in the not-for-profit sector globally right now is US$60 trillion,” Belgrove said.
He said all NGOs and CBOs were public trust organisations and held the trust of the people they serve and were accountable to the public of T&T. It is the public, he said, who was in charge of our organisations.
Belgrove said: “We are simply trustees of the public good. We are acting as agents for social good. We are really enhancing and managing the common pool resources that is supposed to be for the good of all. Now I know if we were to do an audit in T&T, this yard stick would see a lot of organisations going out of business.
“So when we talk about a Civil Society Board, globalisation is driving that. There is going to be a set of protocols and some audits that is going to validate NGOs and CBOs in T&T. Yet as a sector, we are not very vigilant in really paying attention to what this means for us and if we are caught napping a lot of NGOs and CBOs will fold up and ride out into the sunset.”