NON PROFIT ORGANISATIONS BILL
The Non-Profit Organisations Bill, 2019 became the The Non-Profit Organisations Act, 2019 when it was passed in the Senate on 29 July, 2019.
When it is enacted by The Minister, it will provide new regulations governing non-profit organisations. Until that time, the provisions of the Companies Act still apply to the regulation of non-profit organisations.
CSB has been advocating for such a Bill since 2012 to provide responsible regulation and prevention of abuses in the non-profit sector. CSB wanted the Bill to strengthen the sector's capacity thereby establishing its credibility to Government, private local and international donors and investors.
CSB campaigned for an inclusive, practical, effective Bill to guarantee the independence of the non-profit sector, that would also stimulate the non-profit sector, facilitate regulation and institutionalize the CARICOM consultative mechanism.
Our story started in in 2012. CSB spent three years working closely with the Office of the Attorney General to draft the CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANISATION BILL, 2015 (2015 CSO Bill), to standardise, regularise and bring uniformity to the operations of CSO’s operating in The Bahamas.
In May 2018, CSB was awarded a grant by the Caribbean Policy Development Center (CPDC) to advocate for the enactment of the draft Bill. In 2018 we engaged over 70 organisation in Nassau, Abaco, Eleuthera and Grand Bahamas for further input to improve the Bill.
Members of CSB met with the Office of the Attorney General on 17 July 2018. A productive meeting took where areas of mutual benefit and concern were discussed and a framework for enactment of the Bill explored.
Surprisingly, at the end of November 2018, another Bill, the Non-Profit Oganisations Bill, 2018 (2018 NPO Bill) was tabled in Parliament by the Government. This Bill aimed to impose strong regulation on the financial reporting and registration processes of the non-profit sector to bring The Bahamas in compliance with the Financial Action Task Force. Of particular concern was that there seemed to have been very minimal, if any consultation with the non-profit sector in the preparation of the 2018 NPO Bill.
Members of CSB and ORG met with the Attorney General on 5 December, 2018 to explain the benefits of our 2015 CSO Bill and concerns with the 2018 NPO Bill. At the meeting, the Attorney General agreed to review our 2015 CSO Bill and to consider drafting a new bill which amalgamates both Bills. To this end, he asked CSB to draft a document by 15 December, 2019 to advise him of our concerns regarding the 2018 NPO Bill and suggestions to improve the 2015 CSO Bill.
Despite this meeting, the 2018 NPO Bill was passed in Parliament, was then due to be debated in The Senate on 10 December, 2018. CSB with the assistance of the Organization of Responsible Government (ORG) and other stakeholders, lobbied the Senators and caused the debate on the Bill to be postponed.
CSB felt that the 2018 NPO Bill in its original form was premature, duplicative and antithetical to the spirit and objectives to the 2015 CSO Bill drafted by CSB. We felt that it was prescriptive and aggressive and sought to regulate the sector with little input or consultation from Civil Society.
Members of CSB and ORG met with the Attorney General on Friday 14 December, 2018 and were advised that the Government was prepared to move on many of CSB's concerns on the Bill and agreed to delay its enactment till 2019, while draftsmen made the changes. A redrafted Bill now called the Non-Profit Organisations Bill, 2019 (2019 NPO Bill) was forwarded to CSB in June, 2019.
The 2019 NPO Bill was superior to the 2018 NPO Bill that had originally been put forward. The Office of the Attorney General included some very specific revisions, relaxing the financial reporting requirements, and making the process of registration considerably easier.
CSB undertook a further consultation process and produced a review of the Bill, and suggestions for improvement were submitted to the Office of the Attorney General on 7 July 2019.
A meeting was then held with the Attorney General on 24 July, 2019 to share the feedback from the non-profit sector. Due to timescales imposed by the Financial Action Task Force, the AG decided to forward the Bill to both houses and it was finally passed on 29 July, 2019. At the meeting the Attorney General expressed his desire to continue consultation with CSB and other organisations for assistance in drafting the regulations for the new Non-Profit Organisations Act, 2019.