FOSTERING LEGITIMACY, ACCOUNTABILITY AND TRANSPARENCY THROUGH SELF-REGULATION BY CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANISATIONS (CSOs)

When a civil society organisation is legitimate, transparent and accountable to stakeholders, it boosts the credibility of the organisation and sets it on the right part of development. Also, it makes it easy for effective engagements with donors, government and the general public, as most stakeholders want to engage with only credible organisations.

 

Transparency and accountability aid CSOs compliance with stipulated guidelines and changes the narrative about the public perception of CSOs activities and the use of funds. Because the public can easily ascertain where the money is coming from, when and how it is spent.

 

Transparency and accountability within CSOs minimize the risk of money laundering, fraud, theft and abuse of resources through proper financial management practices such as regular audits, two signatures to account; constituent/ stakeholder feedbacks; among others. The 8 Istanbul principle of development effectiveness enables CSOs to check their effectiveness and accountability while ensuring CSOs act in line with global best practices.

 

It enables CSOs put in place internal self-regulatory mechanisms/standards that serve as a check to their various activities, this is reflected in their governance strategy and structure, human resource and management, project management, monitoring, evaluation and reporting and their financial management and sustainability. This sets the pace for proper organizational structure and sustainability.

 

It facilitates effective service delivery and reporting by fostering responsiveness to the needs of the communities (beneficiaries), the people they work with and other stakeholders engaged in development. Hence, proper accountability and transparency measures facilitate increase donor and citizen support for CSOs.

 

CSOs are essential in the democratic life of a country and have played a critical role in promoting transparency and accountability within the government and the general society.  But they can only hold the government accountable when they are transparent and accountable.

 

When CSOs are legitimate, transparent and accountable, it builds trust, transforms the sector and enables actors to effectively engage the government on development and strengthening enabling environment for civil society and the public at large.

 

As observed, most (small and emerging) civil society organisations are not aware of the laws governing the sector and what it takes to effectively run a non-profit. A Non-profit operational manual has been developed by the Network to assist Nigerian non-profits to strengthen their operational and technical capacity in delivering their vision and mission. The manual aims to help non-profits adopt best organisation practices, clarify requirements, regulations and compliance issues relating to managing a non-profit. It was designed as both a capacity-building tool and reference material for successfully running a non-profit organisation and as a guide for understanding and complying with regulatory frameworks guiding the operation of non-profits in Nigeria.

 

In Nigeria, the sector at this time is faced with the promulgation of legislation/bills to regulate the activities of civil society by the government. The reasons why these laws keep springing up is because the government feels some CSOs operating are not legitimate, transparent and accountable enough especially with the use of funds. There have been speculations that some non-profits are used as conduits for money laundering and terrorism financing (especially after the financial Action Task Force Recommendation 8 on non-profits). However, proper legitimacy, transparency and accountability by CSOs can change this narrative.

 

As part of the Nigeria Network of NGOs core strategic areas on civic space strengthening, its activities at this time is centred on fostering self-regulation amongst civil society organisations in Nigeria to improve legitimacy, accountability and transparency based on existing laws. CSOs need to be visibly engaged in shaping the narrative on non-profit regulation, but it can only be achieved if their organization is legal, transparent and accountable.

 

When a civil society organisation is legitimate, transparent and accountable to stakeholders, it boosts the credibility of the organisation and sets it on the right part of development. Also, it makes it easy for effective engagements with donors, government and the general public, as most stakeholders want to engage with only credible organisations.

 

Transparency and accountability aid CSOs compliance with stipulated guidelines and changes the narrative about the public perception of CSOs activities and the use of funds. Because the public can easily ascertain where the money is coming from, when and how it is spent.

 

Transparency and accountability within CSOs minimize the risk of money laundering, fraud, theft and abuse of resources through proper financial management practices such as regular audits, two signatures to account; constituent/ stakeholder feedbacks; among others. The 8 Istanbul principle of development effectiveness enables CSOs to check their effectiveness and accountability while ensuring CSOs act in line with global best practices.

 

It enables CSOs put in place internal self-regulatory mechanisms/standards that serve as a check to their various activities, this is reflected in their governance strategy and structure, human resource and management, project management, monitoring, evaluation and reporting and their financial management and sustainability. This sets the pace for proper organizational structure and sustainability.

 

It facilitates effective service delivery and reporting by fostering responsiveness to the needs of the communities (beneficiaries), the people they work with and other stakeholders engaged in development. Hence, proper accountability and transparency measures facilitate increase donor and citizen support for CSOs.

 

CSOs are essential in the democratic life of a country and have played a critical role in promoting transparency and accountability within the government and the general society.  But they can only hold the government accountable when they are transparent and accountable.

 

When CSOs are legitimate, transparent and accountable, it builds trust, transforms the sector and enables actors to effectively engage the government on development and strengthening enabling environment for civil society and the public at large.

 

As observed, most (small and emerging) civil society organisations are not aware of the laws governing the sector and what it takes to effectively run a non-profit. A Non-profit operational manual has been developed by the Network to assist Nigerian non-profits to strengthen their operational and technical capacity in delivering their vision and mission. The manual aims to help non-profits adopt best organisation practices, clarify requirements, regulations and compliance issues relating to managing a non-profit. It was designed as both a capacity-building tool and reference material for successfully running a non-profit organisation and as a guide for understanding and complying with regulatory frameworks guiding the operation of non-profits in Nigeria.

 

In Nigeria, the sector at this time is faced with the promulgation of legislation/bills to regulate the activities of civil society by the government. The reasons why these laws keep springing up is because the government feels some CSOs operating are not legitimate, transparent and accountable enough especially with the use of funds. There have been speculations that some non-profits are used as conduits for money laundering and terrorism financing (especially after the financial Action Task Force Recommendation 8 on non-profits). However, proper legitimacy, transparency and accountability by CSOs can change this narrative.

 

As part of the Nigeria Network of NGOs core strategic areas on civic space strengthening, its activities at this time is centred on fostering self-regulation amongst civil society organisations in Nigeria to improve legitimacy, accountability and transparency based on existing laws. CSOs need to be visibly engaged in shaping the narrative on non-profit regulation, but it can only be achieved if their organization is legal, transparent and accountable.

Non-profit Self-Assessment Tool Validation Workshop – Lessons Learnt, Challenges and Prospects


As a non-profit organisation, the first step towards organisational effectiveness is self-assessment.
 Generally, the goal of self-assessment is to identify knowledge and experience gaps by evaluating various aspects of an organisation’s structure; governance, board effectiveness, level of risk management, deployment of personnel and resources, bearing in mind that a solid structure guarantees a more sustainable organisation.

 

Depending on an organisation’s needs, self-assessments can be organisation-wide or focused on specific areas of activities which would entail collecting data focused on answering specific questions, to check whether or not it is making progress towards various goals, including whether the non-profit can demonstrate that it is making progress to advance its mission. For example, the management department can carry out a self-assessment to determine how effective its management strategy is and if it requires a re-evaluation.

 

On March 13th, 2019, the Nigeria Network of NGOs (NNNGO) set out to address capacity gaps within the non-profit sector by launching a Non-Profit Self-Assessment Tool (NOPSAT). This tool was targeted at supporting Nigerian non-profits to build stronger organizational structures by measuring their governance strategy and structure, human resources and administration, programme management, monitoring and reporting, along with their financial management and sustainability. At the launch, non-profits within and outside the NNNGO membership were encouraged to conduct this “health-check” by visiting the website, specifically created to host the Non-Profit Self-Assessment Tool, through a link shared on their social media platforms. At the end of the exercise, a total of 324 organisations accessed the tool.

 

A validation workshop based on the Non-Profit Self-Assessment Report to review the capacities analysed, identify strengths and weaknesses and develop plans to build capacity where gaps have been prioritised, was organized on July 3rd, 2019, where recommendations were made by participants to provide plausible solutions to many of the problems identified.

 

The validation workshop was an eye-opener on the capacity gaps of non-profits as participants noted that some capacities needed strengthening. While most recommendations made at the workshop tilted towards the need to build a more transparent and accountable civil society, many non-profits at the workshop indicated a lack of sufficient knowledge on local laws and regulations guarding the sector. It is noteworthy that non-profits who currently receive donor funding were observed to be more knowledgeable and compliant of regulatory laws than self-funded NPOs and this can generally be attributed to the fact that the former stick to guidelines to receive funds.

 

Discussions on stipulated guidelines within the Nigerian regulatory milieu focused on the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) which established the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and Part C – now Part F, in charge of incorporated trustees and monitoring registration of non-profits. A certificate of registration from CAC is then followed by one from Special Control Unit Against Money Laundering (SCUML), charged with monitoring, supervising and regulating Nigerian non-profits in compliance with the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Finance of Terrorism (AML/CFT) regulations.

 

Lessons from the workshop show that CSOs need a more defined governance structure – many non-profit leaders who participated at the workshop noted that some executive directors are also members of their boards and therefore face transparency, accountability and sustainability issues.

 

Part of lessons learnt at the workshop is that facilitators are required to be well-grounded in the subject matter such that they have the prerogative to incorporate more information and topics based on the needs of the participants. For instance, at the validation workshop, for participants to fully understand the governance strategy and structure based on series of questions, the facilitator had to leverage on his knowledge of the Companies and Allied Matters Act for a better understanding of the capacity.

 

We also realised that to achieve better results, a face-to-face questionnaire administration is preferable as it gives room for clarity and enables respondents to comply speedily unlike when using online means, where they can ignore questions, and may even fill it unjustifiably to score points.

 

Organisations tend to be more open to responding to questions about their organisations when they respond to the questionnaire as anonymous respondents compared to when they fill in their organisation’s name.

 

The workshop served as a meeting point among NPOs which further gave room to rub minds and build the capacity of member organisations. It was observed that the time frame for the workshop lasted more than expected because most topics that were assumed to be narrow were broad, as questions from participants gave room for a detailed explanation of each capacity and indicators.

The Nigeria Network of NGOs (NNNGO) is the first generic membership body for civil society organisations in Nigeria that facilitates effective advocacy on issues of poverty and other developmental issues. 

Do you have questions? Call or visit us.

+2349069460107

Plot 3 Sobanjo avenue, Idi-ishin Jericho Ibadan, Oyo, Nigeria.

nnngo@nnngo.org 

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