Opposition says govt did not do its homework on non-profit bill

Following the government’s confirmation that it will shelve the Non-Profit Organisations Bill until mid-January, Leader of Opposition Business in the Senate Fred Mitchell yesterday castigated the Minnis administration over what he called a rushed and shambolic bill.

“Clearly, they did not do their homework with regard to this bill because if they had done their homework, the bill would not have been brought to the Senate… and then you have to make what appears to be significant changes to the bill,” Mitchell told reporters.

“The Progressive Liberal Party was going to vote against this bill.

“We were going to offer a single amendment and that amendment would have been to the definition section of the bill and the amendment would exclude political parties and the church from this bill.

“The bill is overly bureaucratic, it is intrusive and it appears to us that this is not the way to go at this time and it needs a lot more work.

“We’ve been in touch with the churches. There’s a full-scale revolt and blowback from the church community on this bill and the government is in big trouble if they proceed with this bill as it presently is.

“So we are awaiting the changes and we expected to see those changes.

“All the predictions were that this had to be done before the 31st of December, and so therefore it must be done and so on and so forth, and so we’re brought back here, only of course now to be told that we have to come back next year.

“And so, the more general point is that the government needs to give, in the Senate, value for money, for its performance.”

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.

Civil Society Bahamas (CSB) made the revelation about the bill being delayed in a statement on Sunday.

However, Attorney General Carl Bethel accused CSB of divulging confidential information and said the group is trying to force the government’s hand.

“I’m disappointed that civil society organizations would adopt the kind of posture that is evident by this press statement,” Bethel told The Nassau Guardian when called for comment.

“A commitment to review is not a commitment to do.

“Yet, to put into the public domain our confidential and private discussions in this way seems to be an attempt to try and force the government’s hand.”

The bill was passed in the House of Assembly on December 5. However, Bethel announced in the Senate last Monday that passage on the bill would be delayed until yesterday to allow for further consultation.

In the Senate yesterday, Bethel said the bill still needed to go to Cabinet for the requisite approvals and noted that amendments will seek to reduce some of the bureaucracy and make it more user friendly.

He declined to comment further on the delay, noting that he had said all he intended to on the matter.

Mitchell said while the opposition it is not surprised by the delay, it is disappointed with the government for wasting valuable time on a bill that was clearly not fit for debate, given the pushback and claims of a lack of proper consultation.

“We anticipated this, but that does not change the back-end story, which is the government was unprepared, and so there’s this rush…It was supposed to be done by the 31st of December, it had to be done because of anti-terrorism, FATF, all this alphabet soup that they had, and it turns out that it didn’t have to be done at all, not at all,” he said.

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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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