Improving NGO Internal Governance and Public Accountability: Sharing Experience and cases on NGO self Regulation A paper presented at the CIVICUS Webinar interaction on; Legitimacy, Transparency and Accountability issues for civil society organizations By Bonnie Kiconco K. Mutungi National QuAM Coordinator 15th July, 2010 Outline of the presentation • Introduction • The Rational for the QuAM initiative • Over view of the QuAM process • Governance structure and Features • Certification levels and process • QuAM Strategic Focus • Achievements • Anticipated Benefits • Implementation challenges • Conclusion INTRODUCTION: What is QuAM • The NGO Quality Assurance Certification Mechanism (QuAM) is a voluntary internal self assessment and regulation mechanism initiated to strengthen the internal governance of NGOs by supporting them to enhance their capacity to uphold accepted standards and ethical conduct. • The QuAM development process was done under the patronage of the Uganda National NGO Forum (UNNGOF) and the Development Network of Indigenous Voluntary Associations (DENIVA). The two organizations and the promoters of the initiative. Rationale for the QuAM Initiative • The rationale behind the initiative was that the NGO sub-sector itself should be actively engaged in promoting particular set of values and norms as part of maintaining a public reputation for professionalism and high ethical standard. • To set out principles and definite standards of behaviour for responsible practices with an aim of protecting the credibility and integrity of civil society organisations in Uganda Rational … • CSOs to subject themselves to the same level of scrutiny as they demand of others (CSOs in Uganda have enjoyed special status and influence within development processes by highlighting the failures of Government and other institutions). • To regulate the conduct of NGOs. There is consensus among CSOs themselves and other stakeholders including development partners, that there is need for a Civil Society Voluntary Certification Mechanism that would apply to a broader constituency within civil society. • To enhance CSO’s legitimacy by demonstrating their accountability, their openness to public scrutiny and their adherence to acceptable ethical standards of behaviour Overview of the QuAM Process • The QuAM initiative was developed through a highly participatory process that took over 18 months. • The initiative came at an opportune time to salvage individual organizations’ codes of conduct most of which are just kept on shelves and not performing their intended purpose. • The process also entailed public input through the media. Process • The QuAM development process was done under the patronage of the Uganda National NGO Forum (UNNGOF) and the Development Network of Indigenous Voluntary Associations (DENIVA) and the initial phase was concluded in 2006. • After over 3 formative years of the QuAM as a collective process, important gains have been made and lessons learnt. • Key among lesions learnt is the nature and status of NGOs in Uganda. QuAM Governance Structure • The QuAM organization structure is as follows; – The National QuAM Assembly, – National QuAM Council, – District Quality Assurance Certification Committee, – Public or Beneficiary QuAM Features • The QuAM goes beyond any single existent code of conduct; it is based on clearly defined standards and sets out implementation modalities, including sanctions in the case of breach. • Obtaining a QuAM certificates is not a legal requirement, but once issued, the provisions of a certificate are binding on the certified NGO. • QuAM has three certification levels and an NGO qualifies for one basing on its compliance with the 59 standards as indicated below: QuAM Certificate Levels • There are three different levels of a quality assurance certificate issued: – Provisional –applies to NGOs that are of recent creation, meet selected minimum quality standards (18 in total). They apply for full certification after one year. – Full Certificate –issued when all minimum quality standards have been met (they are 32 in total, including the 18 above) – Advanced Certificate –issued to an NGO that meets all minimum standards above as well as standards for improvement (27 in total). Levels of Development • Attaining any of the above certificates depends on the level of development the organization has achieved. There are 59 standards that are used to assess an organization that applies to be certified and these are classified as below: development as classified below: – (A): The NGO as an Organization; – (B): NGO Programs and Activities; – (C): Further improving our performance Certification Process • The certification process and overall implementation of the QuAM is vetted and verified by two important external organs, and at times the third organ may be involved. The organs are: – National QuAM Council: independent of any single NGO comprising of 7 persons from representatives of NGO networks (apex, thematic and district) and two independent persons with extensive knowledge of civil society. The Council issues Quality Assurance Certificates and also acts as the keeper of the QuAM: monitors its implementation, keeps records, sensitizes and trains district committees. – District Quality Assurance Certification Committee: Is composed of 5 voluntary members, at least one third of whom are female. – Public or Beneficiary: vetting may be done with the help of the prescribed beneficiaries which the NGO in operates. At times the vetting mechanisms may require every NGO to subject itself to public scrutiny to get feedback on its work from the community or stakeholders that have a stake in the organization Strategic Focus • Outreach and Publicity of QuAM to all NGOs and their constituencies in the country • Encouraging and supporting NGOs to under take the Certification • NGO Capacity Development (this will evolve as generic QuAM Gaps are identified through Monitoring and Evaluation– it should be conceptualized as a mentoring process where more advanced NGOs can help the others) • Networking, Learning and Synergy Building (national QuAM platform for learning and experience sharing Foreseen QuAM Benefits • The QuAM is a progressive, non–threatening instrument to internal self-governance, designed to enable NGOs at different levels of development to grow overtime • QuAM ensures genuine appreciation of principles and practices, as opposed to enforced conditioning which leads to organizations ‘artificially’ claiming governance standards without believing in them • Having NGOs that are publicly accountable and are able to show the impact of their work to the community/ constituency they represent. Benefits • Benefits for NGOs include: – Enhanced credibility, legitimacy, accountability, protection/autonomy – Contributes to better cohesion amongst NGOs – Helps to constantly improve performance and NGOs learn from examples; and – Raises profile • Achievements so far made • Launch by Minister of State for Internal Affairs at the 2nd Uganda Social Forum in September 2006 • Recognition of the QuAM by NGOs, development partners and government – the QuAM is recognized in the NGO Regulations of 2009 and the draft NGO Policy • QuAM infrastructure in place; – A fully established and functioning National Council – Fully functioning secretariat, – QuAM Committees in 19 districts, • Recognition of the QuAM by NGOs, development partners and government – the QuAM is recognized in the NGO Regulations of 2009 and the draft NGO Policy Achievements • Sensitizing and marketing to NGOs – both during the process of formulation and after its launch, • Some NGOs have already gone through the process and testified to the importance of Self Regulation, and they can give testimony on how going through the process has helped streamline their operations and these include; – UNNGOF, – Plan Uganda, – Kalanga District NGO Forum, – DENIVA, and – Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda (ACCU Outstanding Challenges • Limited outreach especially at sub national level, • Different interpretation by other stakeholders who look at QuAM as a compulsory instrument, rather than voluntary which would undermine a cardinal principle of the initiative, • Lack of clarity on ownership; some NGOs think that QuAM belongs to particular organizations and they have no business with it. Conclusion • In a country facing a moral crisis in the public and private sector, the QuAM aims to make a contribution to inculcating moral impulses that will percolate through the entire society. • The QuAM is one of the most important developments in the NGO sector that has got support from a cross section of NGOs; local, national, International, and other partner sectors • We therefore call upon all actors to respect the values and principles that QuAM espouses and support its implementation. • We would encourage all NGOs in the country to adopt/assimilate to the QuAM Agenda as an instrument composed of standards aimed at enhancing Accountability as well as credibility in the sector.
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