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Jan 19, 2017

How Broken is the N.G.O. Act?

Eamon Courtenay

When the N.G.O. Act amendment came up for debate later in the meeting, the Opposition renewed its attack on the amendment as, as put by lead Senator Eamon Courtenay, is confusing at worst and ambiguous at best, but it does not specifically do what it was intended, which is to provide for the N.G.O. community’s representation in the Senate. He also pointed out another deficiency in the law which was promulgated sixteen years ago.

 

Eamon Courtenay, P.U.P. Senator

“We are being told that is being passed in order that Senator Salas can take his seat, and I listened carefully to Senator Barnett this morning, implying – and I put it no higher than that – implying that N.G.O.’s were disenfranchised from voting in the election for a Senator. This amendment does not cure that. If it is that the N.G.O. Act is to be amended to say that if you wish to vote in an election for electing a Senator, you must register, then let us amend the Act to say that. Nowhere in the N.G.O. Act does it say that in order to elect a Senator you must be a registered N.G.O.. If that is what the intention of the Government is, then that is the amendment that they should bring forward. Most of the N.G.O.’s in this country are not registered under the N.G.O. Act, and as it stands it is not mandatory to register; the purpose is to get the benefit of the tax incentives. The interesting thing is this: I went back to the Act itself, and Section 6 (1) says this: Every Non-Governmental Organisation desirous of being registered under this Act shall submit to the Registrar, within three months of the commencement of this Act, or within such other time as may be prescribed, the documents and information referred to in subsection (2) of this section. Three months, and this Act was passed when? 2001, so the three months is out. Or such period as may be prescribed under this Act. No period has been prescribed, Mr. President. It is impossible for Senator Barnett’s N.G.O. to legally register under this Act at this time, because the three months has gone and no period has been prescribed.”

 

Nonetheless, the amendment was passed without revision.

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