Why Kenyan Gov’t demands accountability for NGOs
When the Kenya government moved to demand accountability and check the revenue streams of various Non-Governmental Organisations, many were quick to accuse if embarking on a retrogressive clampdown that could hurt Kenya’s democratisation and respect for human rights.
What many failed to appreciate was that for far too long, foreign-funded NGOs have been allowed to operate liberally in the country under the guise of improving the nation’s governance and democracy.
According to Global Humanitarian Assistance, Kenya is among world’s leading largest recipient of aid. For instance, in 2011, Kenya received Ksh55.4 billion (US$537 million), with NGOs receiving over kSH10 billion (US$95 million).
The funding increased as the country headed to the 2013 General Election with donors such as the Norwegian Development Agency (Norad) investing heavily in extensive election reforms and preparations for the national elections, including presidential elections, parliamentary and county parliament elections. The latter ushered in devolution for the first time in the country.
While it is appreciable that majority of this funding goes into improving the well-being of Kenyans through programmes targeted at improving healthcare, education, agriculture among other social justice initiatives, as well as much-needed governance reforms, it is inexcusable that a significant of the money has been domiced among a few NGOs that purport to be at forefront in fighting official excesses, to hide their illicit activities some of which border on treason.
An analysis of the few NGOs in the democracy and governance sector will reveal that most of them are joined at the hip (in terms of founding memberships and financing) but when they converge to pursue a particular cause, they perfectly hide the true identity of the forces behind them.
Indeed, it will not surprise you that many of the proposals for donor funding are formulated under on roof in Nairobi’s leafy suburbs or in western capitals where some of the founders operate from.
It is not particularly peculiar that most of them become active in the period leading to elections in Kenya.
They latch onto the filmiest of excuses such as civic education, litigation and other advocacy campaigns to attract foreign aid, which is easily availed given the high stakes most western countries place in Kenya.
In 2013, Kenya sought to limit the amount of foreign funding that an NGO can received t 15 percent of its overall budget, but this was shot down by MPs when an amendment to the Public Benefits Organisation Act was introduced.
Then civil society activists claimed the government was targeting NGOs that had petitioned President Uhuru’s win in that year’s election as well as those alleged to have instigated the ICC cases against him and his deputy William Ruto.
However, it does not require rocket science for one to understand the effect of uncontrolled foreign funding in a country.
It has proven, for instance, that most politicians rely on foreign funding to oil their campaigns but in the end, it is the public that suffers since this support is reciprocated late through official corruption in terms of underhand tendering and kickbacks.
Ahead of this year’s election, for instance, concern was raised when it was realised that foreign funding of NGOs had risen to Sh90 billion.
According to the NGO Coordination Board, some politicians have briefcase NGOs that they use to fundraise for their campaigns.
It is believed that one of the reasons why Nasa presidential candidate Raila Odinga’s campaign did not splash money ahead of August 8 elections is as a result of the government move to closely monitor the flow of suspicious foreign funds into the country.
In May, the Financial Reporting Centre (FRC), which was created by the Proceeds of Crime and Anti-Money Laundering Act, begun to closely monitor the movement of such money and many believe this could be the reason Nasa could not even mount billboards at levels witnessed in previous elections.
Could it be the reason he has resorted to raising through crowd-sourcing, including Safaricom’s PayBill platform?
If so, it could mark a major turnaround for the country’s electoral politics. It would show that effect before the Elections Campaign Financing Act is operationalised, we can easily stop dirty money from polluting our nation’s politics and national life, generally.
By Martha Wangari, Gilgil MP
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