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Non-profit organisations told to 'get house in order'

- Community updated on NPO legislation set to take effect on April 2, 2013
Representative of the Financial Investigation Agency Mr Errol George (left) and Chairman of the Non- Profit Organisation Board Mr Kenneth Hodge at the community meeting on January 17, 2013. Photo: VINO
A section of the audience at the NPO meeting. Photo: VINO
A section of the audience at the NPO meeting. Photo: VINO
A member of a NPO raising several issues of concern to her as it relates to the new legislation soon to be enacted. Photo: VINO
A member of a NPO raising several issues of concern to her as it relates to the new legislation soon to be enacted. Photo: VINO
ROAD TOWN, Tortola, VI - "We are not here to dismantle any NPO (Non-Profit Organisation)" this was an assurance given by Chairman of the Non-profit Organisation (NPO) Board Mr Kenneth Hodge as he addressed NPO members last evening January 17, 2013.

Approximately one Hundred persons converged at the Rupert Briercliffe Hall eager to learn more about the new legislation that is set to take effect on April 2, 2013 as it relates to the legal operations of Non-Profit Organisations in the Virgin Islands. 

It was at that forum the head of the board, Mr Kenneth Hodge, spent some times emphasising the importance of organisations falling under that umbrella, getting their house in order. He told the gathering that the legislation comprises a six fold function for NPO registration. "The first function of the board is to receive and determine applications for registration by NPOs. This means specifically that we are to evaluate each application that we receive to determine it reaches the requirements of the Act," noted Hodge.

The process, he said, involves an assessment if whether an entity qualifies as an NPO based on the definition as outlined in the Act.  He assured that once all the requirements are met in the application process, NPOs are guaranteed registration within thirty days following which the Registrar will issue a certificate of registration. 

One year from now the board has the responsibility and mandate to review the financial statements as submitted by each NPO. Mr Hodge explained that for organisations that have a gross income of over $250,000 annually, they are required to submit financial statements that are certified by an accountant. 

"We are not asking for an audit we are just asking for the accountant to say the accounts are free of material mistakes and that's only for entities that are over $250,000," he further explained. Those NPOs with less than $250,000, the Board will determine the form of the financial statements. 

The NPO Board also has the responsibility to facilitate the development of NPOs in the Virgin Islands and create an understanding of the roles and functions. "....we are not here to dismantle in any way the NPOs in the BVI, I have a personal connection to NPOs in the BVI and that's not our function at all," assured Hodge.

He, however, stressed that a part of the proccess they would be involved in would be to facilitate similar functions as last evening's to educate and get feed backs.  

Receiving and investigating complaints arising out of any matter surrounding an NPO, "any matter or complaint surrounding any NPO can be launched to the board and the board is authorized to receive that complaint and to investigate that complaint as necessary," said Hodge. 

The representation of religious organisations were dominant among the groups present at the meeting and among the few questions that clarifications were sought on included the procedures required in raising funds, soliciting funds from local entities, donor agencies (national and internationally), and through public fund raising activities. Another concern was about what system is in place for visits by the NPO board to organisations which exists without a fixed or steady place of operation. 

Persons sought clarification as to the required number of persons that should constitute an NPO, whether or not NPOs are required to submit on a monthly or annual basis, reports to the board other than the stipulated financial board. 

Persons were curious about the procedure to be followed by groups that fall under a registered or non registered religious organisation as well. They were also concerns about the legitimacy of the Act and its scope in qualifying local NPOs for funding from international donor agencies. It was said by one member of the audience that because of registrations and legislation concerns they were rejected for international funding in the past. 

The Non-Profit Organisation Act, 2012 was passed by the House of Assembly on October 11, 2012 and assented to by His Excellency the Governor on November 12, 2012. The Governor signed the Proclamation on December 19, 2012 to bring the act into effect on January 1, 2013. This paved the way for the legislation to go through the necessary stages of becoming enacted. NPOs have up to April 1, 2013 to submit their applications for registration but were repeatedly reminded by the chairperson of the meeting Ms. Caroline Stoutt-Igwe, that they, especially new organisation, take in their application early, which will give the board ample time to check for error  that the specific organsiation might need to have sorted out before April 2, 2013. 

Groups categorised as 'adhoc' were advised to get there houses in order by getting a constitution and following the procedures for registration.

Among others who addressed the gathering were Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Social Development Petrona Davies, Ms Maureen Vanterpool and Mr Errol George.

14 Responses to “Non-profit organisations told to 'get house in order'”

  • my (18/01/2013, 10:43) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
  • bigger picture (18/01/2013, 11:23) Like (8) Dislike (1) Reply
    in a time when the complaints dept can't even get co-operation from government ministers to address complaints, what makes me think they will be diligent here? More importantly, why would they require civic-minded people from a community who help themselves to register, pay dues and permits when the very definition of non-profit includes NO MONEY. It takes the enthusiasm right out of any effort to do something good. Many groups have no working capitol and are funded out of private pockets on the street. This is such a big and arrogant mistake which will be detrimental to well-meaning efforts across the territory.
    • pete (18/01/2013, 11:39) Like (2) Dislike (0) Reply
      I so agree. Very short-sighted. I can't help thinking that this might have something to do with the Beef Island law suit, funded by home owners,visitors, and grass roots on-line petitions, which challenged the illegality of building next to designated fisheries protected area. If Orlando Smith, who signed the agreement, was still in office he would have been named in the complaint I dare say. This is a perfect way of controlling any activism or protest.
      • nonsense (18/01/2013, 13:39) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
        Are you kidding me Pete? That's quite a reach don't you think? I agree these new requirements seem over the top however, your conspiracy theory doesn't hold water, sorry. People can protest how they want, when they want, this will not affect those types of efforts.
        • two country (18/01/2013, 19:56) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
          It sounds to me like we are living in Apartheid-era South Africa.
        • to nonsense (21/01/2013, 23:38) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
          people may be able to be activist, however, I would not put it past officials to "punish" groups by focusing on the loud ones. you know what I mean. we have both seen it happen. It is not a conspiracy theory, but I am anticipating abuse of the new act. mark my word. They will make a non-profit status out of a well-organized group if it causes too much trouble.
    • Mike (18/01/2013, 12:19) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
      Arrogance abound. No! I was wrong. Ignorance was the word I shoud have used.
    • 1 (18/01/2013, 12:32) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
      blah blah blah blah
  • wet well (18/01/2013, 15:13) Like (1) Dislike (0) Reply
    why do we need this in the first place???
  • Music (18/01/2013, 19:03) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    I dont have any objection to the registration of NPOs in principle> It is useful for statistics etc. But the whole idea of the act is to make the BVI look as though it is being a good boy and complying with international norms, and to look for terrorist or money laundering activities. After registration the govt will rely on the organisations "compliance officer" to tell them of any suspicious financial dealings. I cant see govt going into the accounts etc themselves and following up to look for terrorists etc. There is a whole board of civil servants, presumably being paid, and I can only see them filing the annual returns and thats it. They still cannot answer the simple question as to who has to register, especially when it comes down to small, may be one person, "organisations" who are doing good in the community. Also how will they know who has not registered in order to apply those huge fines? They could not explain what happens if an application is refused. Does the organisation have to close down and stop doing good works simply because it cannot meet the criteria? Re overseas donations, they seem quite happy to accept that some donors wish to remain anonymous - so how do they know what the source of the funds are?. Madness! Try going into the bank and paying a large amount of cash into your own account - they wont take it! This is another law for the sake of it that wont be applied with any vigour.
  • babn (19/01/2013, 07:52) Like (1) Dislike (0) Reply
    just another way for the NDP to inflict pain on the people
  • NPO DONOR (23/01/2013, 16:49) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    Who cares whether the donation comes from an unknown source? Many person make donations to charitable organizations and ask for their identities to be wit held because they don't care to be recognized or they do it purely for religious purposes. Others for example in the US make donations to charitable organization because they can claim a tax refund. There is nothing in the law preventing donations from unknown sources. Lodger you are an idiot. You are ignorant and have no idea what you are talking about. Regarding the question as to who have to register, that question was answered. As long as monies are been raised for charitable purposes, regardless of whether it is a single person or a group carrying out the fun raising activities, he or she has to register according to the legislation. The Act (section 11(1)) states that "a person shall not operate an NPO in the Virgin Islands unless the Organization is registered under the NPO Act".This is a matter of being able to read and interpret law.
  • Vigilate (24/01/2013, 10:49) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    If something is broken fix it or replace it. If it's not broken leave it alone.

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