By Reeti Mahobe:
In India today we have more than 1.2 million NGOs/ VOs (voluntary organizations) that assume varied roles and responsibilities, primarily being the watchdog for the government. NGOs may be defined as organizations within the civil society that work “not-for-profit”, in the space that exists between the family (household), market and state.
While there are several acts in place in the step towards accountability of NGOs such as The Societies Registration Act, 1860, The Indian Trust Act, 1882, TheÂ Bombay Public Charitable Trust Act, 1950, section 25 of The Companies Act, 1961 and so on but none of them require any annual filings or have any uniform accounting policy.Â The NGOs in India need to be registered with Income Tax department under section 12A but NGOs are not subject to public disclosure. We must understand here that NGO accountability covers issues such as organizational management, project implementation, financial management and information disclosure.
This is necessary keeping in view the fact about the huge government and voluntary funding that fuels the organizations for the noble cause that they are headed to. Many NGOs became popular in 1980s and kept coming up, several of them lack proper staff, struggle with inefficient accounting, unwise methodology to meet the desired targets, and lack public acceptance and support many a times. Accountability here calls for a simplified organizational structure, properly maintained accounting, and dissemination of ‘money matter’ to the public with compulsory online and/or print publication of the same.
Further as NGOs are formed to achieve a specific target, this must also be monitored regularly. They may falter at times due to unintentional reasons wherein they could be provided with expertise in the sector to help them overcome difficult times. Authority and responsibility must be clarified. There’s a need for accreditation of voluntary organizations that would lead them to make better funding decisions and make them transparent too. Accreditation may provide better incentives for governance, management and performance of voluntary organizations. At present there’s no reliable accreditation system in place. The National Policy on Voluntary organizations is one of the measures being taken in this regard that would evolve a novel and healthy relationship between government and NGOs without infringing upon their autonomy and identity. Work standards and behavioural standards must also be well communicated. They must be answerable to their stakeholders with greater sense of reliability. Those involved in funding the VOs must also be well educated about the NGO in concern and the mechanisms intertwined.
NGO the very word fills us with the sense of social service, those that help the deprived and the poor. They are one of the most significant organs to keep a check on government schemes and programmes and their involvement in carrying out social audit, behaviour change, good governance and improved service delivery is of utmost importance. Stakeholders and people in general have great faith in them towards achieving goals of social justice. This must be kept high with a proper accountability mechanism and self regulatory discipline so that the ones who are endowed with responsibility to ‘cleanse’ the ‘system’ are not themselves stung with irregularities.