In New Zealand and Zimbabwe, provisions relating to the regulation and oversight of public benefit organizations (PBOs) are under consideration. In New Zealand, details of the new ‘Charities Commission’ have been agreed by the Cabinet, while in Zimbabwe a working group has developed draft legislation for NGOs established ‘for the benefit of the public or sections of the public’, which includes oversight by a new ‘NGO Governance Board’.
Although the new legislation has not yet been presented to Parliament in either case, it is expected to be forthcoming (by the middle of this year in New Zealand). Both pieces of legislation envision tax exemption for registered PBOs.
The functions of the two proposed oversight bodies are similar, with each expected to be involved with PBO registration, oversight of PBOs, providing advice to PBOs, and developing stronger PBO-government relations.
These two bodies differ in two fundamental ways. First, they differ in size and representativeness. The New Zealand Commission will have five to seven members, while the Zimbabwean Governance Board will have 26. The New Zealand Commission will be established as a new Crown entity, with the Crown appointing commissioners, mostly from the charitable sector, on a rotating basis. Members of the Zimbabwean Governance Board will be chosen by the designated Minister from nominations from organizations in various sectors (health, children and youth, media, human rights, etc).
The two bodies also differ in the way they are empowered to enforce penalties for violations. The Governance Board in Zimbabwe will work closely with an apex body – the National Association of Non-Governmental Organizations – which is required under the legislation to develop and administer a Code of Conduct to ensure self-regulation. The proposed New Zealand Charities Commission, on the other hand, will have its own enforcement powers (such as replacement of the governing body or appointment of a temporary trustee), but it is supposed to ensure compliance through education rather than punishment.
For further information on both of these developments, see the April 2003 issue of IJCSL.