Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have experienced a decline in income levels in the past three years, with fresh statistics showing a projected K150 billion drop in 2020 alone, Nation on Sunday has established.
The statistics, based on the technical and audit reports which the NGOs have been submitting to the NGO Board of Malawi, a government institution which regulates the sector, show that within the past three years 136 NGOs have either voluntarily closed down or were inactive.
Analysts have since warned that if not reversed, the trend would hurt underprivileged communities that benefit from the NGO interventions which extend to agriculture, health, economic empowerment, human rights promotion and family planning, among other areas.
Assessing the income of the NGOs in an interview on Friday, NGO Board chief executive officer Voice Mhone said the NGO sector spent K1.1 trillion in 2018, but the expenditure dropped to K1 trillion in 2019 while last year, it fell by K150 billion to K850 billion.
He said the figures were calculated based on total annual income and expenditure of the NGOs that submitted their audit reports. The 2020 figures, however, were collected from January to September this year.
Mhone said in 2018, 113 NGOs submitted audit reports which depicted an income of K318 billion and expenditure of K317 billion. In 2019, 143 NGOs submitted audit reports which showed K248 billion expenditure and K247 billion income.
Last year, 228 organisations submitted technical and audit reports registering a total income of K249 billion while expenditure was at K244 billion, the NGO Board reported.
Said Mhone: “If you look at this trend for 2019 and 2020, you see that income and expenditure have remained the same while the NGOs that submitted reports are increasing. So, what we are seeing is that it is actually the funding to the organisations that is going down.
“We have extrapolated the total income and expenditure and compared it to the whole sector. Suppose all the 721 NGOs in 2019 submitted their reports, the NGOs spent K1 trillion a year based on data from that time.
“In 2020, based on the same methodology, we have established that the sector spent K850 billion and you can also see a drop there. In 2018, we calculated that the NGOs spent K1.1 trillion.”
He said the number of active NGOs was 756 in 2018 while in 2019 the figure dropped by 35 to 721. Last year, 101 organisations in the sector ceased to operate and currently only 621 are in operation.
Meanwhile, the Council for Non-governmental Organisations of Malawi (Congoma) chairperson Kossam Munthali has said they have also been observing financial challenges facing the local NGOs.
In a separate interview, he attributed the development to what he termed as monopoly of funding by international organisations.
Said Munthali: “What we have observed is that these local organisations fight for the same funding from the country’s development partners. The funding conditions, in the end, favour the international organisations and locals suffer from lack of financial support and die.”
He has since urged the government to push for the strengthening of partnerships between local and international organisations.
The Congoma chairperson further asked government to support NGOs through provision of land where they can construct office blocks and additional funding to fight off the economic challenges.
Meanwhile, the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) executive director Michael Kaiyatsa has decried the aid decline, saying it spells doom for the country.
“Some donor countries and organisations reduced their funding during the period in focus due to the Covid-19 pandemic. For example, the United Kingdom had reduced funding to countries like Malawi and this affected many NGOs. That is why many of them experienced funding challenges.
“Due to these funding gaps, some organisations closed shop while others downsized their programme and staff. The main victims obviously are the rural masses who are the major beneficiaries of the NGO interventions,” he said.
Kaiyatsa has warned that the country’s NGOs may continue to suffer funding challenges as the world continues to battle Covid-19 with new variants posing fresh challenges globally.
To counter the aid challenges, he said there is need for the NGOs to stop relying on traditional donors and establish links with alternative ones.
Said Kaiyatsa: “There are other donors out there that provide funding to NGOs. We just have to be aggressive, in terms of reaching out to them to support us.”
He further asked government to be allocating funds for NGOs operations, cautioning that if the sector collapses, “a huge chunk of the economy of the economy of Malawi would also collapse”. But on calls for government to financially support the sector, the NGO Board chief executive officer said it “would take a very serious business case for the government to consider doing that” as it is also fighting its own economic challenges.