Civil Society Bahamas to meet with AG

Civil Society Bahamas (CSB) will meet with Attorney General Carl Bethel today to discuss amendments to the Non-Profit Organisations Bill.

Bethel announced earlier this week that the Senate would delay passage on the bill to conduct further consultation.

“We are planning to meet with the [attorney general] on Friday,” CSB Secretary Mark Palmer said yesterday.

“They’re working through the draft amendments at the moment, and then we are going to have a discussion on what kind of bill we are going to be able to get at the end of the week.

“We have a day, but luckily because we’ve been quite well organized and we had a lot of organizations inputting into this. We had over 40 organizations that put their input in just in the last week on the issues of the bill, so we were able to get some really good stuff to the [attorney general].”

The Non-Profit Organisations Bill seeks to regulate non-profit organizations 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 due diligence.

The bill also mandates that each NPO report donations of $50,000 or more as well as its 10 largest donations.

A day before the bill was set to be debated in the Senate, CSB called on the government to amalgamate the NPO bill with the Civil Society Organisations Bill, 2015 (CSO 2015 Bill), which the group has been drafting for the last four years.

The group has said that the NPO bill does not seem to reflect the scope and operations of the local not-for-profit sector and could potentially decimate the civil society sector.

Palmer said while a week is not enough time to discuss the matter fully, the group has to be realistic with the government’s time constraints.

Following the group’s criticisms on Sunday, Bethel announced in the Senate, “It is anticipated that when the Senate meets next week, we will have by then circulated to colleague senators and to civil society, our views and any suggested amendments which will be able to accommodate the views of civil society before we pass the bill.”

Asked yesterday whether they expect all of their amendments to be added to the bill, Organization for Responsible Governance Executive Director Matt Aubry said, “When you talk about good governance, it’s participatory, responsive and inclusive, which means that nobody should get everything they want.

“We also understand that there’s limits of time and where we are frustrated with wanting to have to respond so quickly.

“What was great is that Civil Society Bahamas has done so much substantial work to be prepared, so we can draw from a body of work that’s been widely consulted, that’s been balanced and researched against benchmarks in global society. So it did put us in this instance, in a better position to be able to say, ‘Well that looks like this here so here’s what we might suggest’.

“I think that they are going to push for passage as soon as possible. It’s what we’ve seem to hear from all levels of government.

“At the same time we also understand that we want to ensure that there’s another door towards talking about this and building it going forward.”

Palmer said going forward, CSB “wants to help those organizations that are going to be impacted and we are going to have to find a way to help them register and make that process as easy as possible. So that’s one of the things that we are now going to have to focus on.”

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Sloan Smith

Sloan covers national news for The Nassau Guardian. Sloan officially joined the news team in September 2016 but interned at The Nassau Guardian while studying journalism at the University of The Bahamas. Education: Vrije Universiteit Brussel (University of Brussels), MA in Mass Communications

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