Government looking to pass amended NPO Bill today

Although the original bill was only passed in the Senate on Friday, the government intends to table the Non-Profit Organisations (Amendment) Bill, 2019 in the House of Assembly today, with a view to having the bill passed in the Senate by Monday, according to Attorney General Carl Bethel.

The Non-Profit Organisations (Amendment) Bill, 2019, outlines several changes to the original bill, which was passed in the House of Assembly in December, but revised in the Senate after widespread concern from religious and civil society organizations.

The original bill required non-profit organizations to declare their anticipated source of contribution; copies of their articles of association; the identity of the controllers and other members of the organizations; their annual income; evidence of how gross annual income was applied; evidence of know your customer (KYC) procedures and evidence of board structure and function.

However, the proposed amendment replaces that subsection.

Instead, it requires non-profit organizations to declare their purposes, and the identities of their controllers and other members of the organizations.

Section 15 of the original bill granted the registrar the power to impose fines not exceeding $5,000 on organizations that failed to maintain proper financial statements, failed to submit annual returns and other required documents, and failed to pay registration fees.

The amendment proposes to impose fines on organizations if an investigation has “proven that a non-profit organization has failed to produce financial records reflecting all monies received and expended”.

The amendment proposes to repeal section 24 of the original bill, which required non-profit organizations to declare all donations and disbursement of more than $30,000 to the registrar on an annual basis.

If passed, the amendment will require organizations to declare that a record is being kept for all donations over $100,000 for at least five years.

The amendments will require organizations to declare the availability of reportable donations within 90 days of its registration.

In the original bill, organizations are issued a certificate of registry which is valid for three years from the date of issue.

The proposed amendment aims to decrease the validity of the certificate to two years.

The amendment also proposes to add a new section immediately after section 26 which outlines which non-profit organizations the law will apply to.

The proposed section 26A notes that organizations – including churches, organizations that receive government concessions, and internationally recognized or accredited charitable and medical organizations – would be exempted from most sections of the NPO bill.

Only sections 18, 19, 20, 21, which mainly deal with record keeping, and 25 would apply to those organizations.

It also proposes that umbrella organizations register on behalf of its “constituent units” as well as certify in writing that its constituent units comply with the maintenance of annual financial records and “cause the said records to be reviewed and voted upon each calendar year in its annual general meeting”.

Explaining the section, the attorney general said, “[It would apply] to churches and to like Kiwanis clubs, Rotary clubs and these kinds of things, groups like that. Also, like, the Red Cross is an internationally recognized and accredited charitable and providential relief organization.

“Then, with regard to churches, you know the Anglican and Catholic churches may have 50 churches throughout The Bahamas, each one of them can’t be expected to register so they have the umbrella and they register and list all of their people. Now, you don’t expect that an established denomination…that they should have to go through this same process 50 or 60 times over for their constituent units.”

Bethel said the Senate is expected to have its first reading of the amendments on Thursday and will debate the document on Monday.

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Jasper Ward

Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues. Education: Goldsmiths, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice

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