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Serving Sri Lanka

This web log is a news and views blog. The primary aim is to provide an avenue for the expression and collection of ideas on sustainable, fair, and just, grassroot level development. Some of the topics that the blog will specifically address are: poverty reduction, rural development, educational issues, social empowerment, post-Tsunami relief and reconstruction, livelihood development, environmental conservation and bio-diversity. 

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Abuse of tsunami funds by NGOs

Online edition of the Sunday Times: Abuse of tsunami funds by NGOs: Centre to monitor misuse of aid, By Tyron Devotta
The President's Office has directed the External Resources Department to keep a closer tab on future aid negotiations and NGO volunteers while creating a centre at the Finance Ministry to monitor such activities.

Secretary to the President W.J.S. Karunaratne has written to External Resources Department's Director General Sujatha Cooray saying that "large amounts" of foreign aid allocated for development projects, are spent on expatriate consultants ... when such expertise is available in Sri Lanka.

He has called for "serious attention" to be paid to this aspect and to ensure that the expertise which is available locally not be included in project reports. In his strongly worded letter, Mr. Karunaratne has said that (NGO) volunteers "use this opportunity (the tsunami relief operations) to achieve other objectives". He does not specify what these "other objectives" are.

He says some of these volunteers are paid from the aid packages pledged to Sri Lanka. Mr. Karunaratne's letter is signed by Mr. M.D.W. Ariyawansa, Additional Secretary to the President.

Meanwhile, a Centre for Non Governmental Sector (CNGS), located in the Ministry of Finance has been set up by the government with the twin objective of monitoring NGOs and ensuring that aid for reconstruction is not misused.

The Sunday Times found this unit is headed by an executive from the private sector and not by a government official. Kishan Theodore, the Managing Director of Raigam Soya Products goes as the centre's Chief Executive Officer. He admits that he has no letter of appointment and receives no salary from the government. A member of the now defunct Centre for National Operations, he has been named to the post through an administrative directive by Treasury Secretary Dr. P.B Jayasundara.

Mr. Theodore admits that the CNGS he heads is not legally empowered to punish errant NGOs. Even though the CNGS have been asking the NGOs to show their pledges before registration its CEO told The Sunday Times that they cannot take legal action if the NGOs don't keep to their pledges.

Mr. Theodore's position as CEO is called into question further by his inability to sign letters. Letters drafted by him are signed by External Resources Department Deputy Director General A. Abeyagoonasekara. Mr. Abeyagoonasekara told The Sunday Times that they were still in the process of seeking Cabinet approval for the CEO's appointment -- a case of his appointment being made first and Cabinet approval being sought thereafter.

A Finance Ministry source who spoke on grounds of anonymity told The Sunday Times that some of the NGOs were paying as much as 60 percent of the foreign financial assistance they received as salaries and administrative costs.

Mr. Theodore points out that some NGOs pay their foreign personnel as much as US$ 7000 (Rs. 700,000) a month. He said that the CNGS was currently negotiating with some NGOs to reduce the high percentage of foreign staff.

According to this new Government policy all new NGOs must be recommended by the CNGS before they can be registered at the Ministry of Social Welfare. Both new NGOs seeking registration and already existing NGOs in Sri Lanka have been asked to give details of their most recent annual report, audited accounts, financial statements, details of sources of funding, details of ongoing projects and programs along with estimated costs, details of proposed projects and programs with their estimated costs and details of agencies under which projects and programs are implemented or proposed to be implemented. The government has not registered any new NGOs after the tsunami.

Blogger True Sri Lankan said...

It is sad to know with the title, Abuse of Tsunami Funds by NGOs, well at least one brings some money to this country. It is the Government that is abuseing the NGO's by not having a proper mechanism to liaise with the NGO's or provide better facilities and get them to work effectively. With the News Paper reporting about the bad practice and un ethical appointment of un-suited characters to handle important positionsat the Ministry of Finance and Planning and the External Resources Department, where the Center For Nong Governmental Sector is situated.

The amount of rules and regulations set in and the un professional staff who do not even have an Idea of what an NGO is it is sad to see the stepmotherly treatment given to the NGOs of Lanka who have come to help.

If someone closely observes the actions of these organizations set by the Government, they will be shocked in how they have evolved into power bases to suit their own business gains.


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