Uganda’s State Minister for Internal Affairs Mario Obiga Kania has issued a directive dis-continuing the operations of over 10,000 Non-Governmental Organizations across the country that have failed to validate their operating licenses or permits.

Job loss in Uganda as over 10,000 NGOs are directed to cease operations

Uganda’s State Minister for Internal Affairs Mario Obiga Kania has issued a directive dis-continuing the operations of over 10,000 Non-Governmental Organizations across the country that have failed to validate their operating licenses or permits.

A National NGO Register was established in 1989 after the establishment of the National NGO Board under the NGO Registration Act Cap 113 of 1989. Since 1989, there was no verification or validation of the register to establish the exact status of registered NGOs.

In order to effectively implement the NGO regulatory framework, there was a need for verification and validation of the information on NGOs.

During Financial Year 2018/19, the NGO Bureau embarked on a verification and validation exercise which is still ongoing. The purpose of the exercise was to build a reliable and credible data bank of information on all NGOs operating in Uganda for evidence-based decision making.

The exercise will also help to determine any meaningful relationships, correlations and variations in the data with the NGO Bureau and the districts, to ascertain the status of NGOs operating in the Country. This exercise began on the 1st day of November 2018.

Kania while addressing the media early this week in Kampala said that the line ministry sent out communications at all districts for validated information on NGO’s there in but out of 128 districts, only 57 complied. He noted that in a database that was developed, over 10,000 NGOs had expired permits.

“On the 8th day of April 2019, a communication was sent out to all districts requesting for a copy of the Community Based organizations (CBO) register and NGO inventory. Out of 128 districts, 71 districts submitted their data and 57 districts did not comply,” Kania noted

“We are making a follow up on the non-compliant districts and also engaging the Ministry of Local Government.

“A database for CBOs was developed and the process of updating is on-going. With effect from 31st July 2019, the National NGO register indicates that there were 14,207 registered NGOs, out of which 3,810 had valid permits, while 10,397 had expired permits.

“The method of establishing those figures involved physically going through every registered NGO file at the Bureau for verification,” Kania said in a statement.

“All NGOs with either expired permits or who have never registered with the NGO Bureau, in accordance to Section 31(1) of the NGO Act 2016, are not supposed to operate in any part of the Country.

“After expiry of the validation period, all relevant organs of Government should liaise with the NGO Bureau to ensure that unless an NGO has a valid permit or proof of application for renewal of a permit, they should not operate.” The state minister strongly warned.

Among the 3,810 NGOs with validated permits, 3,003 are Indigenous, 482 are Foreign-based, 235 are International, 53 are Regional and 37 are Continental.

The Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) Act 2016 established the National Bureau for NGOs (NGO Bureau) as a semiautonomous entity under the Ministry of Internal Affairs to replace the National NGO Board. The NGO Bureau is mandated to register, regulate, monitor, inspect, coordinate and oversee NGO operations in the country.

Kania cautioned the NGO sector and stakeholders to make the best use of the remaining time to take note of the ongoing exercise and the deadlines so as to validate the necessary information and to also make the best use of the online portal.

“Upon completion of the validation exercise, a report on the “State of NGOs in Uganda” will be published by October 2020 based on information at the NGO Bureau. This is to also to call upon all the key stakeholders to ensure that they effectively implement the NGO Act 2016.”

The minister, however, cited out reasons for the high number of expired permits and those that continue to deliberately operate without valid permits which among others he said included;

“This is the first time a verification exercise is being carried out on the NGO database since 1989 when the then NGO Board was established, NGOs ceasing operations without notifying the NGO Bureau and especially where: – Some NGOs, mainly indigenous, who after registration voluntarily dissolve as a result of redundancy; lack of finances to carry out their operations; and sustainability challenges but quietly close.

NGOs which were opened to respond to situational trends in the country. When such incidences ceased to prevail, a number of them quietly closed down.

A case in point are NGOs that opened up in the early 1990s to respond to the AIDS epidemic, NGOs that opened up in Northern Uganda to respond to the post-LRA war, an influx of NGOs in Karamoja sub-region and many other such cases.

Specific NGOs that were founded by individuals targeting specific funding or projects. After those projects winding up or failure to access the funds, they disappeared and never renewed their permits.

Those that were opened to help address the unemployment challenges but due to the inadequate capacities of the founder members, they were abandoned and the ones that are ignorant of the law thinking that possession of a certificate of registration allows them to operate freely without any requirement to renew.

And then those that are confidently operating on forged documents. These forgeries were either committed intentionally by the NGOs, or by middlemen hired by the NGOs  to renew their permits and upon failure to meet the renewal requirements, resorted to forging.” He said.