Friday, March 14, 2008

Editorial: Dealing with swindler NGOs

Firm action against them is a necessity

News coming in from Natore about the vanishing acts resorted to by some NGOs does little to cheer us, naturally. But what surely leaves everyone perplexed is the extent to which the district administration there has failed to take action against such NGOs even after reports about their negative activities were circulated widely. It is a lax administration we are speaking of here, for the very simple reason that despite the detection of as many as 30 fraudulent NGOs in the district, no punitive measures appear to have been taken against the people behind them. Just how serious the problem is turning out to be is to be seen from the way in which a million people have been swindled out of an altogether Taka 500 crore in eight north-western districts by these fake NGOs.

Not long ago, reports of the swindle committed by a so-called non-government organisation, Freedom Unnayan Sangstha, pointed to the nefarious role that such bodies were engaged in. That should have been reason enough for the authorities to go for concrete and tough action against the individuals and groups engaged in such shady business. That did not happen. What happened was even worse. Earlier this month, the Natore district administration permitted the establishment of some new NGOs, ignoring public opinion about the need to apprehend those who had earlier hoodwinked people by simply disappearing with their money. The height of irony is that since this new decision came into force, two other organisations, also calling themselves NGOs, vanished after pocketing a total of Taka 170 crore. Our credulity is stretched to the limits when we are informed that despite two probes conducted last year, revealing anomalies in the working of some NGOs, the authorities adopted a laid-back attitude where prosecution of the corrupt elements associated with these bodies is concerned.

A few delinquent NGOs cause scratches on the overall image of NGOs. The need now is therefore straight and simple. The Natore administration must not only explain its failure to do its job but also ensure that from here on all past lapses will be set aright. At the same time, it should be the responsibility of NGO coordinating bodies (and one may here mention such organisations as the Association of Development Agencies of Bangladesh) to have their own supervisory or investigative mechanism in place. They could prevent fake NGOs from damaging the reputation of the genuine ones.

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