From the Courts
August 20, 2004
Draft Bill causing reactions

A Civil Society Organizations Bill, to go before the House of Assembly, is causing some reactions here.
The Bill, dated 8 July, 2004, aimed at providing good governance of non-governmental and community-based organizations as social partners in civil society, and creating high standards of transparency and accountability, is being viewed by some as a tool for Government to control and manipulate the community based organizations.{{more}}
Local lawyer Bayliss Fredrick has scoffed at the draft bill, calling for consultations and saying it encroaches on constitutional rights and freedom.
“The practical application of this Bill will affect the freedom of individuals to assist the community, themselves and one another. The Bill seeks to control the non-commercial activities of the community. This is a fetter on the community, a fetter on democracy”, Fredrick complained to reporters on Monday.
“Circulating the Bill is a Constitutional must, so that people know what Parliament proposes to impose on the community”, he added.
Among the characteristics of a Civil Society Organization, Section 6, are: it shall be independent of Government control in its operations and management; the improvement of the circumstances and prospects of disadvantaged people who are unable to realize their potential or achieve their full rights in society, through direct or indirect forms of actions.
Fredrick is also taking issue with duties of the Government Ministry, Section 17 (2, D), which says that the Ministry shall provide personnel to a community-based organization for auditing its accounts and providing general administrative assistance to a community-based organization.
“Donor agencies send a lot of money to fund projects, and it is believed the Government would want to control how the funds are to be disbursed. The Bill will affect every non-commercial organization that is not government associated”, Fredrick charged.
Section 19 provides for the establishment of a Civil Society Commission which shall comprise two divisions: a Functional Division and a Review Division.
Among the duties of the Functional Division are; to receive and investigate any complaint made against a Civil Society Organization; to resolve conflicts between the Ministry and Civil Society Organizations; to instruct, advise and assist the management of Civil Society Organizations of any change in practices or procedures which may be necessary to prevent the occurrence of corrupt acts, except where there is a statutory duty on any person or authority to perform that function.
The Review Division is authorized to, among other things, entertain applications to review decisions made by the Functional Division of the Commission.