January 23, 2022, 3:06 pm

Sajibur Rahman

2022-01-14 10:47:57 BdST

TIB insists on reinvigorating grassroots aid activities by NGOs to offset Covid-19 effects

As almost half of the Bangladeshi NGOs suffer fund crisis, Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) has sought government and donor support to help them undertake and operate Covid-19-related programmes to support the commoners.

According to a TIB study; food aid, healthcare support, cash assistance, relief activities and awareness raising campaigns by the non-government organisations (NGOs) need to be maintained and continued at the grassroots to address the Covid-19 situation.

The anti-corruption body has also recommended publishing information related to types, scopes, expenditures and beneficiaries of the NGO programmes during the crisis on their websites regularly.

“Fund crisis due to lack of a regular source of income, curbing fund by donor agencies, disruption of microfinance activities, etc. were the main challenges for the NGOs in implementing programmes to address the corona crisis,” observed the study report published virtually on Thursday.

The main objective of the study – ‘The Role of Non-government Organisations in Response to COVID-19 Pandemic: Challenges and Way Forward’ – was to review the role and challenges of the NGOs in response to Covid-19.

While 46 percent of the NGOs do not have any regular source of funds, the TIB report mentioned that only 36.5 percent of the institutions are working on new funds related to the Covid-19 programmes.

Also, the study found, more than half (53 percent) of the surveyed organisations faced various challenges in preparing the list of beneficiaries for the relief programmes.

Against this backdrop, the study suggests, the government needs to adopt a joint integrated action plan with all NGO networks from the outset at the central and local levels, to successfully deal with any disaster situation.

“The government and donor agencies must provide policy support and financial incentives to make the financially vulnerable organisations survive,” it added.

The report, referring to key informants of supervisory bodies, pointed out that there were no allegations of irregularities and corruption against NGOs regarding the collection and expense of funds.

However, it said, serious allegations were raised against one NGO for embezzlement of funds, particularly for honorarium and training allowances by applying the means of signature forgery of local elected representatives, government officials and health workers who did to show up in meetings, seminars and training of the project, and misappropriating major part of the fund through fake bills and vouchers.

The study mentioned that the NGOs played a remarkable role as a partner of the government through implementing various activities in response to Covid-19.

About two-thirds of the organisations participating in this study (77.5 percent) started their activities in response to Covid-19 within the first three months of the corona crisis (From March to May 2020), according to the study.

It also mentioned that Covid-19 put Bangladesh’s healthcare system and overall socio-economic condition in an unprecedented crisis.

In the first year of the corona pandemic, the population living in Bangladesh below the poverty line increased by 15 percent, which is about 24.5 million.

The pandemic impacted the vulnerable communities, such as people living in extreme poverty, with disabilities, women, and people living in urban slums and hard-to-reach areas, and refugee settings much harder.

The study said about 97.3 percent of the surveyed organisations took initiatives to raise awareness across the community on wearing masks, maintaining physical distance, handwashing, following the guidelines of lockdown, home quarantine and other government regulations to reduce health hazards.

Quoting the central bank report, TIB study said that microfinance institutions disbursed loans under incentive packages to marginalised and low-income groups more efficiently than other authorities.

About the irregularities in microcredit activities, it said a section of microcredit institutions were accused of collecting instalments of microcredit loans during the Covid-19 crisis.

Some other allegations like raising interest rate and imposing a penalty for failing to pay instalments were reported against some microcredit organisations.

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