NPOs are custodians of public funds and they need to be careful about how they use them
THE Independence Code of governance for non-profit organisations in South Africa was recently presented to various representatives from NPOs in Pietermaritzburg during a conference held at Tembaletu Trust.
Janine Ogle, the project manager for the Independence Code, said that during a conference a few years ago it was decided that there should be a code developed that focused particularly on the needs of the NPO sector.
Ogle said a group of civil society members, all with a vested interest and / or direct links to NPOs, got together to discuss the way forward.
The group then spent two years analysing other countries' codes, and various other codes, in an effort to develop one concise code that encompasses all important aspects of NPOs.
"There is no code that is widely used and accepted by the whole NPO sector. Each organisation conforms to various codes or has membership codes," she said. "The NPO sector needs its own code to keep inline with other countries."
The main aim of the Independence Code is to establish and consolidate good governance witin the NPO sector, as well as "to recognise that the NPO sector is an important and distinct part of civil society, for which a distinct Code of Governance is needed".
"This code is here to protect the NPO sector from the imposition of governance by other codes, from other sectors that are not specific to our (NP01 sector," said Ogle.
"We are custodians of public funds and we need to be careful about how we use them," she said. "We need to claim and protect our non-profit space."
Mervyn Abrahams, director of Pacsa, said he thinks the code is a wonderful document, which he will be proposing to the Pacsa board to decide whether to adopt it or not.
A concern raised regarding the code came from smaller community based organisations (CB0s) and their apprehension towards accepting the code, given that they fe el the code represents a specific strata of NPOs.
Fiona Balgobind, chairperson of the Midlands Welfare Forum, said that the code is a topic thatis receiving lengthy debate. "We really need to unpack it because it is quite complex and there are a lot of grey areas for smaller NPOs," she said.
Di Milford, the general manager at Project Gateway, said that she believed it is for the bigger NPOs to work with the smaller CB0s, to help them understand and adopt the code.
Sinikiwe Biyela, director of LifeLine Pietermaritzburg, said that in terms of adhering to the code, LifeLine is alreadymeeting the criteria, so the Independence Code is nothing new for her. "I came here to find out if there was anything new that we were not aware of, but everything seems to be on track with how LifeLine is running So there isn't anything we are missing," said Biyela.