Public Chamber proposes changes to management of SONGOs
Moscow 7 April 2015
The Public Chamber has informed the President of the Russian Federation that it favours adoption of a multilevel system of grant support for socially oriented NGOs (SONGOS)
The suggestion was formulated at the request of Vladimir Putin following a meeting of a national forum on the State and Civil Society: Co-operating for Development. Its suggestions included creation of a unitary register of NGOs, a new category of NGOs, and a multilevel system of state support for SONGOS for long term projects.
The forum was held in January. Following on from the plenary session, the president signed a list of tasks including a request for the public chamber to formulate proposals by 15 April for a system of grant aid for SONGOS and transparency about expenditure, creation of a national register of NGOs categorising SONGOs and other kinds of non-commercial organisations, and a mechanism for transferring some of the functions performed by the state in the social sphere to SONGOS. The complete list of tasks allotted to the public chamber, the presidential administration and the government of the Russian Federation is a follows.
Improving the system of state grants
The public chamber suggested developing a multilevel system of financing SONGOS’ from the state budget depending on the amounts requested (small, medium and major), distinguishing between grants for innovative projects and projects of NGOs that are starting out as well as support for ongoing operational and administrative activities of SONGOS, accompanied by the formulation of appropriate formulae for the allocation of resources.
The public chamber proposes that consideration be given to reserving financial resources for major long term projects, differentiating between them depending on the type of activities involved and assessing the finance needed at the various stages of implementation.
It also proposed that the possibility be considered of allocating annual grant quotas assessed in light of the public’s priorities as identified by monitoring, that are to be allocateds on a competitive basis.
The document (compiled by the public chamber) suggests standardising the forms and procedures for submission of applications and public reports by SONGOS without the need to approach a particular grant administrator and developing a standard score for accepting applications to be applied by all grant administrators. It is also proposed that all administrators be obliged to publish their assessments of applications following consideration and evaluation, and also offer NGOs training in the writing and submission of these.
The public chamber also suggests that all grant making agencies and organisations authorised to distribute grants from the state budget should be obliged to publish information about recipients and projects that have received support.
The public chamber has offered to develop minimum requirements for public accountability for the implementation of SONGOS’ projects that are financed from the state budget. However, those who worked up the proposals comment that it should be mandatory for reports to contain evidence about the attainment of performance targets and analysis of the effectiveness of the projects in the particular field to which they relate.
Creation of a unified register of NGOs
The public chamber advocated creation of a unified register, observing that currently there is no standard approach to the collection and presentation of information about NGOs’ activities which means that it is not possible to allocate state support effectively.
In making its recommendations the public chamber observed that:
‘Currently the legislation covers 16 different types of NGOs and 4 special registers are maintained with the nature of the information presented being uncoordinated.’
It recommends that when the unified register is created the existing registers be studied including that of the SONGOS, and that the new register contain information about such aspects as the expenditure of grant money, NGOs’ projects and programmes, the geographical reach of their operations and statistical and contact information.
The public chamber sees the unified register as above all an electronic information resource that is always current, makes effective and qualitative processing of information about NGOs possible, and would help the non-commercial sector attract private resources and improve the mechanism for receiving allowances and other support. The need for social services in the regions could be mapped with the help of the register.
A separate recommendation points out that the unified register might contain additional information voluntarily disclosed by an NGO about its socially oriented work.
A novel category of NGOS that make an exceptional contribution in the social sphere.
The public chamber proposes to carve out a new category of this kind within that of SONGOS, which is already well established in the legislation. Those SONGOS that will be included in the new category will have met selection criteria concerned with the excellence of their work. The existence of the new category in the chamber’s opinion should encourage SONGOS in what they do, including by means of the provision of tax and other allowances.
The proposals were prepared taking into account the deliberations of working parties that were set up for the purpose. These included representatives of the scientific and specialist communities, NGOs, grant administrators, ministries, and members of the public chambers at federal and regional levels. It is proposed to place the recommendations before the president once they have been agreed with his administration and the government.