Members of the Civic Freedoms Forum (CFF) and leaders of national civil society organizations (CSOs) have today convened a strategy meeting to develop a plan of action that will guide the collaboration between CSOs and the government towards implementation of priority components of the PBO Act of 2013, which entered into force yesterday, 14th May 2014.

It took 11 years and four months of struggle and efforts, including court actions and dialogue between the CSOs and the government, to realize this milestone. This commencement is an important step forward and demonstrates the commitment of the current regime and civic society to a future of an enabling environment and broadened democratic space in Kenya. With this law, the people of Kenya, and in particular the CSOs, will set a positive example for all of Africa and the world.

As we celebrate this gain, we know the hard work is beginning. As the PBO Act is operationalized, the Non-Governmental Organizations Coordination Act of 1990 now stands repealed. During this transition phase, we must be prepared for the following:

  • Automatic transition of all CSOs registered under the repealed law.
  • Transition of the NGOs Coordination Board to the PBO Regulatory Authority
  • Transition of the NGO Council to the Federation of PBOs
  • Development and adoption of regulations pursuant to Section 69 of the Act.
  • Establishment of PBOs Disputes Tribunal
  • Voluntary registration of new CSOs who would like to enjoy benefits under the PBO Act.
  • Voluntary Registration of civil society organizations that are currently registered under other regimes but would like to enjoy benefits under the PBO Act.

Other than the publicized self-regulation, PBOs are expected to enjoy an array of benefits including but not limited to:

  1. Indirect government support in the form of:
  • Income tax exemptions on income received from membership subscriptions and donations or grants; income tax on income acquired from the active conduct of income-producing activities if the income is wholly used to support the public benefit purposes for which the organization was established.
  • incentives for donations by legal and natural persons.
  • employment tax preferences.
  • special tax incentives for donations to form endowments and prudent investment policies.

2. Preferential treatment in public procurement procedures and bidding for contracts.

3. Provision of direct government financing for public benefit organizations that partner with the government, via budget subsidies, grants for specific purposes, and contracts to perform certain work.

In this regard, CFF calls upon the Government to:

  1. Establish a joint task force (including key civil society leaders and government agencies) to oversee the transition and other prohibitive laws that restrict the enabling environment for CSOs.
  2. Establishment of the joint committee of not more than fifteen members, with shared representation from both sectors (state and CSOs), as envisaged in the First Schedule, to provide reports on the application and compliance of the principles, which includes establishing, respecting, and promoting an enabling environment for PBOs in Kenya.
  3. To ensure a seamless process, consider extending the term of the current Executive Director of the NGO Coordination Board until the end of the transition period.
  4. Facilitate public education and sensitization on the PBO Act, 2013.
  5. Assessment of the ‘NGO Council through public participation among civil society organizations for legitimacy before transitioning to the PBO Federation.
  6. Immediate review of the Sessional Paper No.1 of 2006 on NGOs

CFF remains committed to providing continuous policy and political support and guidance to implementation of this law and enabling environment for CSOs.