Sociologist from Malta

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The voluntary farce

Michael Briguglio

Malta Today

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The situation concerning enrolment with the Commissioner of Voluntary Organisations has become a farce and is untenable.

The situation is simple. All voluntary organisations in Malta have a choice to enroll or not to enroll with the Commissioner. Enrolling with the Commissioner brings with it certain rights and duties, and various NGOs and voluntary organisations, both large and small have taken this option. Hence they are able to benefit from state funding and donations.

Certain organisations are choosing not to enroll, and they have every right to do so, according to legislation. Yet what if some of them generate a lot of revenue? What if some are refusing to be transparent as required by legislation on voluntary organisations? Isn’t this unfair towards voluntary organisations which are transparent in their activities and how they are financed?

Even though I have full respect for charitable work carried out by certain organisations, this should not justify exemption from transparency.

Within such a context, the call of Kenneth Wain (Commissioner for Voluntary Organisations) for equal treatment of all voluntary organisations is correct. It is surprising that the Government has not publicly declared support for his position. Nor has the Labour opposition.

Or perhaps it is no surprise at all. After all, people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. The Nationalist and Labour parties are themselves unaccountable and lack transparency in their sources of revenue. Indeed, this has been pointed out by of Europe's Group of States against Corruption (Greco).

As things stand, there is a free-for-all system as regards donations to political parties and it is more than obvious that this has resulted in a system of political money laundering. In this case, some are more equal than others in their influence on political parties and there is no accounting system to trace this. It is true that Government has initiated steps for a proper system of party financing, but given by what has been said so far, one should hold his breath for a proper reform.

Where does the Green Party stand in all this?

To begin with, we have expressed our support of Kenneth Wain’s commendable work. We are insisting that the legislation on Voluntary Organisations should be observed. It does not make sense for government to first pilot legislation (albeit belatedly) and then to encourage its being ignored by leaving persons like Commissoner Wain on their own to carry the can. Other NGOs, namely Birdlife Malta, Friends of the Earth Malta, Malta Organic Agriculture Movement, Nature Trust Malta, Ramblers Association of Malta and Zminijietna are also supporting Professor Wain.

AD is also in the process itself of registering with the Commissioner of Voluntary Organisations, unlike other political parties. Indeed, our Youth Section, AD Zghazagh, has already submitted its application, and in the near future our cultural foundation Ceratonia will be following suit, together with the Green Party itself.

Yet again, in Maltese civil society, all organisations are equal, but some are more equal than others. In the meantime we can all send them donations at the click of a button. Hurrah!

No comments: