The NGO Regulations, 2017 and NGO Fees Regulations, 2017 were gazetted on 5th May 2017 to complete the process of drafting the legal framework for NGO operations in Uganda. It is important to note that Civil Society Organizations across the country under the auspices of the Uganda National NGO Forum (UNNGOF) have for the last two years been in engaged in a rigorous advocacy campaign to ensure that the NGO Bill, 2015 addresses the major concerns of the NGO Sector.
The Bill was passed by Parliament in November 2015 and assented to by the President on 30th January 2016 as a piece of legislation considered progressive by a wide section of civil society. Previously, the Bill had been viewed as regressive and narrowing the operating environment for NGOs in Uganda but this was finally overcome and a more agreeable bill settled upon.
UNNGOF and the National Bureau of NGOs have embarked on a countrywide dissemination exercise to create awareness amongst the relevant stakeholders and promote compliance with the different provisions as spelt out in the NGO Act, 2016 and NGO Regulations, 2017.
The first of the dissemination exercises was held in Kapchorwa District at a meeting organized by the Human Rights Centre Uganda for Human Rights Defenders and the Justice and Law Order Sector in Kapchorwa on 21st June 2017. The facilitators of the meeting from the National Bureau of NGOs and Chapter 4 highlighted the following provisions within the Act and Regulations:
- The NGO Act, 2016 that was assented to in March 2016 has effectively been in force for over a year even without the current NGO Regulations; the NGO Regulations 2009 had not been revoked by any instrument.
- Community Based Organisations (CBOs) have been restricted to operate geographically at Sub-county level and not at District level as was in the old law.
- New organisations intending to register as NGOs will first have to incorporate at the Uganda Registration Services Bureau as either a Company Limited by Guarantee or as a Trustee.
- Existing NGOs shall be registered as NGOs with the National Bureau of NGOs at the next renewal of their operating permits.
- NGO Regulations 2017 contains 46 regulations and 22 forms, of which 6 are high value and 16 low value forms. High value forms are issued after an application has been made and approved whereas low value forms facilitate the application processes.
- NGO Fees Regulations, 2017 have introduced 16 different types of fees ranging from application fees for registration to fees for inspection reports and register searches/ reports.
- Each NGO under the new legal framework shall be required to obtain and or display the following key documents:
- Certificate of Incorporation – issued by the Uganda Registration Services Bureau
- Certificate of Registration – issued by the National Bureau of NGOs
- Permit to Operate an Organisation – issued by the National Bureau of NGOs
- In the case of Community Based Organisations (CBOs), they shall be required to possess the following documents:
- Certificate of Registration of a CBO – issued by the District NGO Monitoring Committee
- Permit to Operate a CBO – issued by the District NGO Monitoring Committee
The meeting ended with a call to all participants (NGOs, CBOs and Local Government) to read the Act and Regulations carefully and to ensure compliance with all provisions to create a better operating environment for civil society in the country.