UNDP clashes with donors over NGO funds

Staff Writer

A CLASH is looming between donors and the United Nations Development Programme over humanitarian funds which government accuses local NGOs of mishandling.



rdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”>This week the government said NGOs were failing to account for US$88 million donated under the Consolidated Appeal Process (CAP), a humanitarian effort co-ordinated by the UNDP.


The government has since written to local NGOs giving them until today to account for the funds or risk prosecution and deregistration.


The Zimbabwe Independent however heard yesterday that the funds in question were not part of the CAP but monies mobilised by the NGOs for their own projects. Donors with offices in Harare yesterday chided the UNDP office for getting involved in the issue, saying the funds were not part of its humanitarian appeal.


It has also emerged that some of the NGOs which government accuses of abusing donor funds are not involved humanitarian issues. One such NGO is Human Rights Trust of Southern Africa.


A meeting has been scheduled for today between donors, NGOs and the UNDP to sort out the problems.


We can reveal that in 2003 government sent an appeal to the UNDP for assistance to avert a humanitarian crisis caused by poor harvests. The UNDP is said to have failed to convince donors to support that effort as differences between Mugabe’s government and the West sharpened.

Donors at the time voiced concern over the implementation of the land reform and the democratic deficit in the country.


Donors who were willing to help however decided to channel funds directly to NGOs and not through the UNDP office. NGOs with running projects signed programme agreements with donors, some running up to 2007.


UN sources yesterday said in January 2004 government approached the UNDP requesting renewal of the June 2003 CAP and to ask for more support.


Government in July made a follow-up on its request to have the appeal renewed. The then resident representative Victor Angelo informed government that the donor community would only avail aid through NGOs already operating in the country. He allegedly submitted a list of NGOs that were going to benefit, giving a breakdown of the money they would receive.

Government now alleges the money could have been used to sponsor political activities instead of the intended humanitarian causes.


Acting UNDP resident representative Benard Mokam last night said current government efforts should not send the wrong signal to donors.


“It is unfortunate that we are now in this situation where donors feels that they are being probed,” said Mokam.

“If the government is looking for information to enable it to do an assessment and see how it can complement, then there is no problem. If it is going to be used to scrutnise and control then it is sending the wrong signal,” said Mokam.


The donors this week said it was “most irregular” for the UNDP to claim that they could not account for funds under the CAP.


“This is most irregular because the NGOs, who were our co-operating partners, accounted for the money to us, not to the UNDP. We had no deal with the UNDP. The fact that we informed them of what we were doing with NGOs does not make them owners of the process,” the donors said.


The government is expected to send its appeal for humanitarian assistance to the UNDP next month. This, diplomats in Harare said, was likely to get a lukewarm reception from donors because of the current controversy.
 
The government, NGOs allege, would like to use the spat to stop President Mugabe’s signing of the NGO Act which was passed in December.


The Act, among other issues, makes it illegal for NGOs involved in issues of governance and voter education to receive foreign funding. It also empowers government to peruse the accounts of NGOs and monitor their sources of finance.

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