Last week, Government approved the proposed amendments to the Private Voluntary Organisations (PVO) Bill. According to the Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, Hon. Monica Mutsvangwa, the Bill seeks to close existing loopholes and ensure that all PVO activities are transparent and are conducted in the national interest. The Minister further noted that the Bill will:
- combat money laundering and financing of terrorism by any individual or institution in Zimbabwe operating under the Private Voluntary Organisations banner;
- streamline the administrative procedures for Private Voluntary Organisations to ensure their efficient registration, regulation, and the combating of the financing of terrorism;
- accord the Registrar of PVOs the power to penalize non-compliant organizations.
- empower the Registrar to collect registration fees from all PVOs;
- prohibit PVOs from political involvement and require them to discharge their mandate for the benefit of society’s most vulnerable. PVOs will therefore be prohibited from undertaking political lobbying on behalf of any individual, organisation or political party and the Bill stipulates penalties for those PVOs that violate the Act; and
empower the Registrar to impose civil penalty orders on PVOs which break the law, with high risk PVOs being placed under monitoring. The Executive Committee of a PVO can be suspended for either maladministration or failure to discharge the declared mandate.
After approval of the Bill by Cabinet, the Bill is expected to be gazetted any time soon. Once gazetted, it goes through the first reading stage and is referred to the relevant Parliamentary Portfolio Committee. The Ministry of Public Service, Labour & Social Welfare admipnisters the PVO Act. As such, the Bill is likely to stand referred to the similarly titled Parliamentary Portfolio Committee that shadows the Ministry (Standing Order (SO)135 of the National Assembly).
Standing Order 134(1) of the National Assembly requires 14 days’ notice in the Government Gazette before an ordinary Bill (i.e., one that does not amend the Constitution) can be introduced in Parliament for its first reading. That said, the same Standing Order provides an exception to 14 days’ notice requirement. Under the SO, upon application to Parliament by a Vice President or Minister in cases of urgency, the House may, by resolution, waive or dispense with the notice requirement.
During the 14 days’ notice period, the relevant Parliamentary Portfolio Committee can then consult the public through public hearings or oral evidence interviews to get their input on the Bill in line with Section 141 of the Constitution. Under Standing Order 135 of the National Assembly, the Committee prepares a report that is presented at Second Reading Stage.