There used to be a time not so long ago when Non-Governmental Organisations were run by honest, sincere and hard working people who could be trusted and have their words taken for it.
Those days are regrettably no more.
Not only have NGOs lost direction and become a nuisance, they have also become havens and sanctuaries of some of the worst crime scenes and corruption in the land.
As a result, the public no longer trusts the NGOs.
The situation is so bad that ordinary citizens look at NGOs as fiefdoms, where there is a lot of abuse.
The situation in Botswana has gotten out of control mainly as a result of HIV/AIDS which has meant that many wolves in sheep skins descended upon us under the guise that they were good intentioned.
It is not a secret that many of Botswana’s NGOs are one-man shows, if not family controlled. That cannot go unchallenged.
It’s high time something is done about it.
Otherwise the country stands to lose the goodwill it has with the few remaining international donors who still channel their aid to Botswana through NGOs with the hope that such money and resources will be used to assist the poor members in our society.
When properly managed, NGOs can actually be a force for good. They compliment government programmes and could be even more effective as they tend to be more community based than national.
When properly managed they also do not enhance the sense of community, they also help strengthen our traditional support systems which admittedly are under strain as a result of various ills and global developments that as we are people are inevitably a part of.
But we are of the strong view that many NGOs are no longer living up to the expectations they have traditionally been known for.
As a result we are also of the view that its time for government intervention.
Otherwise it would be too late by the time we wake up especially given that many people who head these so called NGOs are so vernal that they put their own interests ahead of the noble principles their organizations pretend to serve.
We do not want to get to the situation as is in Zimbabwe where government now insists to micromanage NGOs. But if NGOs do not clean up their act that unfortunately is where we are headed.
At the rate we are going and given the extent of the venality of some of their leadership, it will not be too long before we get reports of some NGOs receiving money from abroad with the sole aim of causing harm to the country’s interests.
We are not about to name and shame any particular NGO, let alone issue the names of corrupt individuals in these entities, but stories of failures to account have become so commonplace that they can no longer be ignored.
Thankfully, in a few instances some NGO executives have not only been pushed out but have been brought before the law and convicted.
We believe that those who do the crime, including in NGOs should also do the time in jail.
We believe a mechanism has to be found to make sure NGOs like all of us are accountable.
This is especially important because NGO’s reach out to international donors under the guise that if given the money they would use it to augment government programmes.
In other words NGOs solicit money on behalf of citizens, which necessarily means that their money is public money.
As a result, NGOs should not be exempt from the rigours of public accountability including having their books opened for public scrutiny.