The NGOs run with foreign funding have made notable progress in terms of governance over the last decade, although some corrupt practices still persist, finds a new research by the Transparency International Bangladesh.
“Compared to the TIB study findings of 2007, the NGOs have made significant progress towards strengthening their systems and processes for ensuring transparency and accountability,” said TIB Executive Director Iftekharuzzaman yesterday.
“We saw most of the NGOs [that we studied] adopting policies and guidelines on purchase, financial management and gender. There are efforts to avoid overlapping projects,” he told a press conference at the TIB office in the capital.
Besides, the NGOs have made efforts to include their beneficiaries in their governing bodies and made more of their organisational information public, found the research titled, “NGOs of Bangladesh Funded by Foreign Donations: Governance Challenges and Way Forward”.
However, a good number of NGOs recruit without publishing any advertisement while some do not have any purchase committee, creating scopes for corruption, he added.
A number of officials of the NGO Affairs Bureau were allegedly involved in enjoying undue privileges and financial benefits from the NGOs, Iftekharuzzaman said.
Of the 2,625 NGOs registered with the bureau, TIB studied 48 -- 15 local, 24 national and nine international -- between 2014 and 2016.
TIB researchers Abu Said Mod Juel Miah, Nihar Ranjan Roy, Mostafa Kamal and Nazmul Huda Mina conducted the study.
“Out of the 48 NGOs, 32 have consulted the local community and stakeholders in assessing the needs of projects and selecting beneficiaries,” said Abu Said.
Most NGOs have purchase committees and follow specific list of vendors. Of the NGOs studied, 43 pay salaries through banks, he said.
Most of the NGOs have internal auditing arrangement and complaint redress mechanisms.
It also identified some governance challenges. For example, two of the five NGOs that pay their employees in cash have two separate registrars to pay employees less than their actual salaries.
The study found two NGOs claiming on papers that certain employees received full salaries from multiple projects, but the employees were paid from only one project.
It found at least 18 NGOs lacking any specific list of vendors, which put them at risks of corruption.
There are allegations of irregularities involving large amount of money against some NGOs.
Some high officials, especially the chief executives, took undue benefits from the NGOs by abusing power.
Relatives of high officials of some NGOs are recruited violating regulations.
One third of the NGOs have weaknesses in consulting the local community and stakeholders while selecting beneficiaries and assessing the need of their projects. As a result, the people in need were deprived of the benefits in some cases.
Policy decision is supposed to be approved by the governing body, but in some cases the chief executive unilaterally takes decisions and implements them.
Nihar Ranjan Roy said local powerful quarters, especially a section of politicians made interventions in the NGOs. Some district and upazila administration officials illegally collect money from the NGOs during observations of national days.
A section of officials of the NGO bureau and intelligence agencies also harass the NGOs and ask for money during registration and project approval.
Some officials of the NGO bureau take undue privileges in terms of using vehicles and guest house facilities of the NGOs while they are on family tours, Nihar Ranjan said.
The study recommended establishing an online system for approving project funds, taking punitive actions against the corrupt officials of the NGO bureau and NGOs and enhancing coordination among NGOs to avoid duplication of activities and incorporating specific “governance component”.