Ntional Development Agency shares findings on design and implementation of Regulatory Frameworks for Civil Society Sector

Research Findings Reveal a Weak Civil Society Sector Due To The Design And Implementation Of Regulatory Frameworks

The National Development Agency (NDA) shared findings of a study commissioned by the organization to analyse the current legislative, policy and regulatory environment for the civil society sector in South Africa, and the extent to which the frameworks impact on the functions and functioning of the sector. The study was conducted by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and Foundation of Human Rights (FHR).

Findings from the study revealed several deficiencies in the current design of regulatory frameworks for the civil society sector, chief amongst others being regulations that do not promote responsibility, transparency and accountability in the sector instead of assuming that the state must play an administrative justice role for the sector, while the sector’s only role is to comply. The findings also revealed the need to review and amend current regulatory framework in order to tailor-make interventions according to the sizes of various CSOs and CBOs.

“We commissioned this research to begin a policy development debate on behalf of the CSOs as a way to correctly locate accountability, responsibility and provide a path for the sector to take back their power to reach the country’s development goals. It is clear from the findings that the current frameworks are somewhat a hindrance to the development process, however, it is encouraging that there is room and willingness to make improvements from strategic partners who support the participation and independence of the sector in a range of development initiatives”, Mrs Thamo Mzobe, Chief Executive Officer of NDA.

Other key findings point out to the poor implementation of regulations which in essence contribute to misconceptions about the nature and role of civil society, and the role that ‘regulation of CSOs’ plays. Some of the reasons for this are closely related to the Department of Social Development NPO Directorate’s ambitious mandate as the primary regulatory body, however, this has not been matched by the necessary resources to effectively implement its mandate, resulting in weak implementation of its mandate and declining levels of compliance by CSOs with reporting requirements.

Mr Thulani Tshefuta, Chair of Convener NEDLAC Community gave an outline of the “Limitations of Regulatory Frameworks for Civil Society in South Africa” and agrees that, “Active citizenry is one of the key tenants of achieving social capital, a position where people and communities are not just passive beneficiaries but part of the solution in their development.

The introduction of regulatory mechanisms came with the promise of formalization, professionalization and increased funding for the sector. One of the unintended effects of the legal instruments is the erosion of self-responsibility and self-initiative, including intra-sectoral accountabilities. Top-down regulatory instruments tend to introduce the compliance versus course dichotomy. Regulatory measures must not change the DNA of civil society of agility, responsiveness, relevance, self-reliance and sustainability”.

He further noted that the current regulatory frameworks do not promote innovation that can come through social entrepreneurship. As such, NEDLAC recommends regulatory frameworks that help unleash and realise the potential CSOs and some elements must lead to the institutionalization of Public-Community-Partnerships to the scale of Public-Private-Partnerships. Lastly, they need to consider self-regulation by the sector and outline government’s support thereof.

Speakers at the webinar included Advocate Gary Pienaar from Developmental, Capable and Ethical State unit in the HSRC; Dr Zaid Kimmie of Foundation of Human Rights and Former Executive Director of SADC Council of NGOs, Mr Glenn Farred who all pointed out the urgent need to correct the misalignment between the frameworks and the current realities in the sector; and to close the accountability gap in the sector. A set of regulations governing the CSO sector such as the NPO Act, NDA Act, Income Tax Act and Companies Act also needs to be harmonized to bring about complete and beneficial transformation of the sector.

The NDA’s Executive Director for the Development Management and Research unit, Mr Bongani Magongo, highlighted the importance of CSOs as the critical component of how the state deals with socio-economic and population challenges of that particular state. He further alluded to the motive of the NDA in getting involved in looking at how to enhance the civil society sector in the country to a point where it takes its own responsibility of being the voice of the population and not to be a subservient of any arms of the state but rather a representative of the people.

The establishment of a Presidential Advisory Council for NPO sector was recommended as part of a future proofing plan as well the design of a universally accessible funding collection and distribution mechanism for all components of the sector derived from 1% of all Corporate Social Investment and philanthropic giving.

Source: Government of South Africa

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