Charities at risk - Stakeholders claim disclosure motion could harm altruistic work
Bobby Wilmot, pastor of the Joy Town Community Development Foundation, is sounding a warning to lawmakers currently reviewing a private member's motion, which calls for the registration of civil-society groups and the disclosure of their financiers.
At the same time, Ivan Cruickshank, programme manager at Caribbean Vulnerable Communities, said yesterday that if the motion becomes policy, even churches would be required to disclose their donors.
"Think about churches as a part of civil society, and if you ask the churches to have to explain all of the donations from every member or contributor, the significant burden that it would certainly impose on civil society," Cruickshank told members of the committee.
His comments came during a meeting of the External Affairs Committee of Parliament examining the motion moved by Raymond Pryce, the North East St Elizabeth MP.
The motion had been referred to the committee by the House of Representatives for further deliberations.
Wilmot later told The Gleaner that a requirement for churches to disclose the names of their donors would discourage many persons who want to make donations without being acknowledged publicly.
He said based on his experience with charity work, many donors request that churches not make public their contributions as they seek to carry out their altruistic work without being identified publicly for the effort.
GIVING IN SECRET
Wilmot said the Church has had a tradition of not trumpeting the giving of gifts, noting that Jesus encouraged his disciples to give their donations or alms in secret, "and thy Father which sees in secret Himself shall reward thee openly".
If such a motion became government policy, Wilmot argued, it would negatively affect a number of social and other programmes, which receive significant support from the Church through donors who wish to remain anonymous.
"I am strongly against touching that because you end up doing more bad than good," he insisted.
Earlier, during the committee's deliberations, Carol Narcisse, chairman of the Jamaica Civil Society Coalition, said her group rejected any insinuation, without evidence, that civil-society groups were receiving tainted money from questionable sources.
Narcisse reasoned that legislation already exists to reduce the risk of tainted money entering the coffers of civil-society bodies.
She cited the banking regulations, laws relating to money laundering, and the Proceeds of Crime Act.
She said the motion moved by Pryce last year provided no indication of any gaps in the existing legislative framework, which it is seeking to plug.
In his motion, Pryce called for the registration and disclosure of sources of funding for civil-society groups.
Narcisse argued that any mandatory requirement for civil-society groups such as small community organisations to register and declare sources of funding would be too onerous for these groups.
Narcisse said the cost of such a requirement was likely to force them to close.
She said many such groups are already registered with the Social Development Commission.