New laws meant to combat money laundering within the voluntary sector choke the fundraising activities of NGOs in red tape and risk paralysing the sector, according to several of the organisations.

They say the new measures, which were enacted without stakeholder consultation, require them to seek the hand of the Commissioner of Voluntary Organisations in a number of steps involved in raising funds.

Apart from having to apply for a permit, which expires after six months, NGOs wishing to use donation boxes for collections need to pick them up from the office of voluntary sector council and then return to count the money.

Envelopes containing donations require a warranted professional, such as a notary, to be present when the money is counted, and volunteers involved in collections also need to be registered.

A moratorium until July has been placed on the controversial regulations, which were enacted in September last year, and mediation by the commissioner has seen some of the new rules concerning fees amended.

But this is not enough, the NGOs say.

In a statement, rule-of-law NGO Repubblika said the heavy-handed approach towards the voluntary organisations needed to be reconsidered immediately.

This degree of interference was unacceptable.

“It is imperative that the voluntary sector resist this unjust attack and demands that these absurd regulations are revoked at once,” said its president Robert Aquilina.

“If an organisation abuses of a system, then proportionate and adequate action should be taken against it, but it is wrong to treat everyone with suspicion.”

Claudia Taylor-East, director of NGO SOS, said the burdensome administrative procedures outlined in the new rules were going to affect the whole sector but especially smaller NGOs which depend so much on fundraising.

It is wrong to treat everyone with suspicion

“The legal framework needs to support the sector and allow the fundraising activities to flourish, and this is going against it,” Taylor-East said.

“This sector needs assurance of simplified procedures, especially for smaller NGOs doing stellar work that really depend on fundraising to continue going.”

Faced with these new hoops to jump through, she questioned whether her own NGO’s emergency fundraising initiatives will continue to be viable.

“When it comes to fundraising at emergency level, the question we need to ask is whether the licensing for the campaign is going to be processed quick enough.”

'We will have to scale down the work'

The Malta LGBTIQ community also hit out at the new rules, saying they added a never-ending list of paperwork to their organisation, which has limited resources. They appealed for a more balanced approach.

“We are not the kind of organisation that gives up when faced with bureaucratic uphill challenges, but this time we will simply have to scale down the work we do for the community,” they said in a statement on social media.

“Like many other NGOs, we appeal for a better balance between accountability and turning NGOs into administration offices. This is simply disproportionate.”

The CEO of the Malta Council of Voluntary Sector, Mauro Pace Parascandolo, told Times of Malta he was pleased the commissioner had retracted measures requiring fees to be paid for registration, after listening to the feedback of stakeholders.

He said the council had facilitated a series of discussions with NGOs on the “cumbersome measures” and as a result of this consultation process and other feedback, it would be publishing a detailed report on both legislations.

Voluntary organisations are asked to send recommendations in writing to the council by not later than next Friday.

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