ISLAMABAD - The government has unveiled the new policy framework to regulate the activities of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Pakistan, wherein organisations would sign agreement with government, besides maintaining full disclosure of their activities, their respective areas of work, source of their funding and use of funds.

The Economic Affairs Division (EAD) has issued the notification of new policy for regulation of organisations receiving foreign contribution, as decided by the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet on November 21. Earlier, in the absence of a policy framework, Economic Affairs Division was restrained to sign new memoranda of understanding (MoU) with international NGOs, particularly those with ongoing operations and their MoU was about to expire.

To regulate the mushroom growth of NGOs, the ECC had approved a policy to review regulatory framework for NGOs working in Pakistan for facilitation of the humanitarian and development work. Massive inflows of foreign aid to NGOs had been witnessed during the last many years, which mostly remained unaccounted for and out of government ambit.

The new policy would regulate the foreign as well national organisations, which are receiving or intending to receive foreign contributions, until the coming into force of appropriate legislation. Any organisation registered outside or within Pakistan and desirous of utilising foreign economic assistance would need prior registration with the government. The foreign economic assistance included moneys, services, and goods, which emanate from outside Pakistan.

According to the new policy, the application for registration would be accompanied by such documentary information as may be specified by the government and would be shared with and vetted by the ministry of interior, the provincial governments and or local government and other relevant stakeholders. The applications shall be processed expeditiously and in any case within four months of receipt.

The new policy stated that organisation would sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the government containing the information specified by the government including amongst other things, the work and the geographical area in which it is proposed to be carried out. The government would maintain a register for such organisations. According to the policy, the duration of the MoU would be up to five years from the date of signature as decided between the government and the organisation. The organisation could apply for renewal of registration four months prior to the expiry of the registration and this application would be similarly vetted by the parties mentioned above.

The new policy stated that the government would terminate and cancel the registration of organisation if it violates any provision of MoU subject to the organisation being provided an opportunity being heard. The organisation could apply for review of the decision within 60 days in case of rejection of the application for registration. Such application would be considered by a review committee headed by the Secretary Economic Affairs Division and comprising senior level of representatives of interior ministry, foreign affairs ministry and other concerned ministries.

The review committee would submit its recommendations to the government after giving the organisation an opportunity of being heard. The decision arrived at after review would be final. The same process would be applied in case of rejection of an application of renewal or in case of termination of the MoU/cancellation of registration.

According to the new policy, the organisation would declare to the government all foreign contributions along with the terms and conditions of these contributors, as well as details of all bank accounts maintained by it. Similarly, the organisation would maintain accounts under internationally recognised accounting standards, get these accounts audited on an annual basis by a registered charted accountant firm and would provide to the government, a copy of the audited annual statements along with a certificate from the auditors to the effect that the foreign contributions have been utilised for the objectives of the organisation as specified in the MoU.

The policy stated, “The organisation will provide to the government and the concerned provincial government/local government on an annual basis a report regarding its activities with reference to the MoU, and the foreign contributions. The planning and development departments of the provincial government may review the activities of the organisation in the context of their development framework and priorities and may convey recommendations to the government from time to time.”

According to the draft of the policy, the organisation would be bound to provide any information that the government may require from time to time. The government may verify any information provided by the organisation. Similarly, if the government is of the opinion that it is in the public interest (such as situation of disasters and emergencies), it may, subject to such conditions that it may specify, exempt an organisation or class of organisations from all or any of the provisions of this policy for a period not exceeding six months.