Criticism of bill on NGO reporting requirements
The Public Initiatives Committee criticises a Bill on tougher reporting requirements for “foreign agents”
Experts believe that this Bill could have an adverse effect on the growth of charitable work and non-budgetary financing for NGO social projects.
The Public Initiatives Committee opposes this Bill which seeks to clarify the level and structure of information to be included in NGO reports, including those organisations classed as “foreign agents”. One section in the text that has come in for particular criticism includes a proposal to introduce an obligation on Russian legal entities to inform NGOs of the source of foreign funds and property that have been transferred to them.
“So, if a Russian organisation wants to make a donation to, or simply take advantage of, services provided by NGOs, should it be forced to identify all those from whom it has received money? For example, will commercial firms, public catering and consumer services have to ascertain the nationality of their clients? Indeed, in taking account of the “foreign sources” definition, legal entities will probably be asked to check if their contractors, i.e. other Russian organisations, have received money from foreign sources which can be an endless process”, said Vlada Muraveva, an expert who sits on the Public Initiatives Committee.
Vlada stressed that the Bill could have an adverse impact on the growth of charity work and on non-budgetary funding for NGO social projects (in terms of a sharp decrease in donations received). She also believes that the Bill as drafted risks depriving Russian legal entities of their legitimate right in matters of information confidentiality.
The Bill has completed its “Zero” Readings stage in the Public Chamber. Several of its members believe the introduction of additional reporting for “agents” is justified. The text was put together by the Justice Ministry and has already been scrutinised by the Russian Government’s Commission on Legislative Activities, which concluded that further work on the Bill was necessary. The Presidential Council for the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights has reacted unfavourably to the proposal, believing the Bill does nothing to address current problems relating to the legal status of those NGOs regarded as “foreign agents”.
Author: Georgy Ivanushkin