Friday, Dec 14, 2018
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Charity sees no issue with nonprofit bill

Chairman of the Sir Victor Sassoon (Bahamas) Heart Foundation R.E. Barnes said he does not suspect well-established charities would have difficulty complying with the recently passed Non-Profit Organization Bill, 2018.

The bill was passed in the House of Assembly on Wednesday as part of a compendium of financial bills to keep The Bahamas in good standing with international financial regulatory bodies.

“The bottom line for us as a published charity is that it’s not really a problem. We see that it would give the public confidence that we do what we say we are going to do and spend the money on the children, as we promised people we’d do,” Barnes said.

The bill seeks to regulate NPOs and mandates that each organization register with the government and provide, among other things, evidence of its gross annual income, the identities of its members and evidence of know-your-customer compliance. The bill also mandates that each NPO report donations of $50,000 or more as well as its 10 largest donations.

Barnes, who said his foundation’s accounts have been professionally managed by PricewaterhouseCoopers for many years now, said all of the donations are traceable.

“We’ve been established for some 57 years,” he said. “Obviously, you get a benefit from being around a long time and so you’re well-established.

“We wouldn’t have had a need for that 30 years ago, but now we do, because essentially new [charities] come along, and they have to find their footing and so on. You’d want to be cautious somehow and still accommodate those persons trying to do good work.”

When asked earlier this week about the requirements of NGOs, including churches, to produce records of their annual income to the registrar general, Bahamas Christian Council President Bishop Delton Fernander said “the intrusion of state into the church must be watched very carefully”. He said, “There is no jurisdiction in the world where the church reports to the state.”

Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest clarified when starting debate on the bill on Wednesday that, “the overriding objective of this bill is to provide for regulation to ensure that non-profit organizations are operating in a transparent manner and are not engaged in activities, which constitute an identified risk as defined in the Proceeds of Crime Act, Chapter 92, namely activities involved in corruption, cybercrime, human trafficking, money laundering or financing terrorism, or proliferation or financing of weapons of mass destruction”.

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