Organization for Responsible Governance (ORG) Executive Director Matt Aubry yesterday called the Non-Profit Organization (Amendment) Bill, 2019 a “superior” improvement.
The bill, which was passed in the Senate on Monday, outlines several changes to the original bill which was revised in the Senate after widespread concern from religious and civil society organizations.
“The bill that was passed is absolutely superior to the 2018 bill that had been put forward,” Aubry said.
“The AG’s office is to be commended that they included some very specific revisions, particularly those related to the financial reporting requirements, and that there was much easier process of registration.”
Earlier this month, Civil Society Bahamas sent a number of recommendations on the revised bill to the attorney general, questioning the exclusion of organizations with political objectives from the bill.
In response, Aubry said, “When you look at other jurisdictions they are not necessarily included and I can understand the distinction here, in that the definition of a not-for-profit organization is that it really establishes and meets the needs of public good… whereas political parties have a very different function.”
“But what I have heard from the AG’s office as we were in discussions is that there is a very specific focus right now on addressing campaign finance, which will look at the functioning and operations within political parties. How much that is to be done I’m not sure, but I do see that as the best type of legislation to address those issues,” he continued.
While debating the bill, Progressive Liberal Party Senator Fred Mitchell said he believes certain groups should be excluded from the regulations.
“I thought that political parties should be specifically excluded from this legislation, I think they ought to be totally excluded. I think that churches ought to be excluded,” he said.
The new bill now requires organizations to declare that a record is being kept of all donations over $100,000 for at least five years, as opposed to declaring all donations and disbursement of more than $30,000 to the registrar on an annual basis, which was in the original bill.
Most 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.