Over 23,000 NGOs' activities unknown
Around half of the NGOs registered with the Ministry of Social Welfare remain inactive for long and a few of them are even regularly taking funds from the government, reveals a recent finding.
The ministry makes the finding digging into the allegations against several NGOs of having links with militants.
A staggering 23,280 of the 50,997 registered NGOs, which do not get foreign funds but receive government allocation, have so far become "signboard NGOs" and have no recent activities.
Ministry officials say these "signboard NGOs" did not submit their annual reports and financial records to the Department of Social Welfare (DSW) as per the Voluntary Social Welfare Agencies (Registration and Control) Ordinance, 1961.
As many as 16,980 such NGOs did not submit their annual and audit reports in the past 15 years, says an official, who works in the audit and administration department, DSW.
Sources say some NGOs are still receiving annual allocation estimated between Tk 50,000 and Tk 5 lakh from the government in the name of social development and welfare. On the other hand, a number of inactive NGOs are receiving sewing machines, computers, wheel chairs and other things.
"The Social Welfare Department did not take action against those non-performing NGOs, though they received the government grants regularly," says a DSW high official.
He adds the process of getting funds and other logistic support from the department is very simple. "People who have good relations with local politicians and officials at the local social welfare office can easily get the funds without submitting any project proposal or reports," he observes.
Social Welfare Minister Enamul Haque Mostafa Shahid told The Daily Star the government is planning to take action against these NGOs and will strengthen its monitoring system.
He said: "As there are allegations against some NGOs of their involvement with militancy and extremism, the government is now very serious about their activities and sources of fund."
According to the Voluntary Social Welfare Agencies (Registration and Control) Ordinance, 1961, an individual or organisation could get registration to run volunteer or social welfare activities to help women's empowerment and rural development and ensure rights of children, the disabled and aged people through DSW.
"It's unfortunate that some NGOs in the name of social or voluntary activities are nurturing and funding militant activities. Now this is time to alert all the registration authorities to strongly monitor and control their activities," said the social welfare minister.
Talking to The Daily Star, Dr Mozammel Hossain, chairman of the parliamentary standing committee on social welfare ministry, said: "As the government has reports that some NGOs are involved with militancy and other unlawful activities, we're going to scrutinise the registration process of about 19,000 NGOs during the BNP-Jamaat rule.
"Most of these NGOs belong to a political party, and their activities are not transparent," he said but did not elaborate.
The NGO Affairs Bureau under the Prime Minister's Office is the authority to register and monitor the donor-funded local and foreign NGOs under the Foreign Donations (Voluntary Activities) Regulation Ordinance, 1978.
As many as 2,129 foreign-funded local NGOs and 211 foreign NGOs got registered in the last 18 years under the NGO Affairs Bureau. Besides, about 1.52 lakh NGOs were registered with the Department of Cooperatives under the Cooperative Society Act, 2001.
The Office of the Registrar, Joint Stock Companies and Firms registered 9,031 NGOs and the Micro-Credit Regulatory Authority registered another 329 NGOs to run microcredit, while the Department of Woman Affairs registered 15,325 NGOs.