However, the heads of various NGOs and INGOs including Mrs. Marcella Samba of Campaign for Good Governance (CGG), Saffea Senesie of INGO Steering Committee among several others in attendance took time to explain to the press that if the Development Cooperation Framework becomes law it will be to the disadvantage of NGOs and INGOs as their work would come under scrutiny and monitoring which would be counter-productive for the welfare of the beneficiaries and the country as a whole.
A press statement that was circulated stating among other things, that “We are seriously concerned that the Development Cooperation Framework will impose restrictions to NGOs and impinge on the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association which are guaranteed international human rights law.”
According to the release, NGOs and INGOs note “with great respect President Bio’s description of civil society as ‘bedrock of modern governance’. The release added that: “we feel that the Development Cooperation Framework has great potential to constrain and contract civil society space in Sierra Leone, thus compromising and weakening the vital work of national and international NGOs.”
Apart from the numerous provisions in the Development Cooperation Framework that are of great concern to NGO and INGO actors, the few below are of major concern:
*All assistance channeled through NGO’s must be aligned to national priorities. This may result in preventing funding to projects that, by their nature, do not align to national priorities (for example; advocacy, governance, and human rights projects.)
*All development projects must be submitted to and cleared by the sector ministry and Ministry of Planning and Economic Development. This can result in unnecessary delays or the rejection of certain projects that have already been approved by donors.
*Mandatory signing of Service Level Agreement (SLAs) with sector ministries will be enforced. This raises concern about the content of these agreements and requiring NGOs to conform only to government activities and plans, which may not allow projects relating to policy or advocacy, for example.
*A mandatory administrative structure stipulates that 70% of all donor funds to an NGO must be directed to target beneficiaries and 30% towards administrative costs. This administrative structure cannot feasibly be applied to all projects (for example, projects focused on capacity building of civil society, operational support to NGOs, advocacy projects, and projects that require ongoing payment to Sierra Leonean professionals whose services directly benefit target beneficiaries (such as lawyers, paralegals, healthcare professionals, teachers, or community organizers).
*Mandatory membership with the Sierra Leone Association of Non-Governmental Organizations (SLANGO) is a requirement for NGO re-registration. This is a violation of organizations’ freedom of association, as all organizations should have the right to associate with SLANGO or not.
However, Mr. Tommy noted that “we will not exclude litigation” if the need arise to ensure that NGOs and INGOS are treated fairly and within the framework of the law so that their work in promoting the welfare of beneficiaries is not adversely affected by the new Development Cooperation Framework.