Experts have been examining inducements for NGOs to be transparent
The NGO community is concerned about the absence of a link between the accountability and transparency of organisations belonging to the third sector and the support that they might expect from the state. This issue was a topic of discussion at a business breakfast, which was one of a series of events looking at how best to make NGOs fit for purpose. It was arranged by the Russian branch of the International Centre for Non-commercial Law and the Attorneys for Civil Society Partnership. In those countries that have a well-developed third sector the degree of accountability that NGOs have is directly related to the allowances which they receive. The NGOs submit information to the tax authorities and other government departments corresponding to that submitted by commercial entities.
However, the accounting forms required by the ministry of justice in the Russian Federation are complicated and, in the opinion of event participants, ask for a great deal of superfluous information. Yet this is the information that currently the officials consider to be the essential minimum according to a consultant in Russia from the Mott Foundation. He was in favour of the efforts being made by NGOs to continue talks with civil servants about simplification of the forms.
In developed countries, where organisations claim enhanced financing or other allowances from the state and also collect donations from the public, the heightened degree of accountability is higher. In the USA, for instance, many third sector organisations decline financial assistance from the state. An attorney from the Public Interest Law Institute said that this is to avoid having to account to government for not only the resources provided but also for the total financial turnover of the organisation in question. The presidential council on the development of the institutions of civil society and human rights and the working group on improving the legislation relating to NGOs were planning to look at ways of repairing this gap in Russian law. It is possible that Russia will be seeing two versions of the ministry of justice forms for organisations in the third sector – a standard one and an expanded one for those NGOs claiming state support.