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Parly gazettes revised PVO Bill

Revisions to the Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill to accommodate reservations by President Mnangagwa when he exercised his constitutional right to withhold his assent on the proposed law until Parliament had reconsidered the matter have been gazetted.

The President’s concerns centred on a new need to meet international best practice to prevent charitable trusts and other organisations not normally thought of as voluntary organisations being used as a conduit for criminal and terrorist funds.

The Bill is now set to be retabled before Parliament for debate.

Legislators are now expected to consider further amendments moved by Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister July Moyo that will deal with concerns raised by the President when he withheld his consent and referred the Bill back to Parliament after the initial Bill was passed last year by both the National Assembly and Senate.

One proposed change is in Clause Two of the Bill which now provides a more detailed definition and interpretation of terms used in the principal Act.

The clause provides for the inclusion of the definition of “funds or other assets” which is very wide ranging to include all financial assets and funds or other assets of every kind.

It also amends the definition of “private voluntary organisation” to ensure it covers all relevant organisations that fall under this law, even when the coverage is confined to ensuring an entity is not being used to launder terrorist funds.

“In view of the international dimension of terrorist and proliferation financing through the abuse of charities, a definition for of Financial Intelligence Unit of the Reserve Bank is necessary because of the role the unit will play in assisting the Registrar of Private Voluntary Organisations in that regard,” reads the preamble of the Bill.

“The definition of ‘private voluntary organisation’ excludes from the scope of that term certain activities, for example fundraising for schools or hospitals by or on behalf of the schools or hospitals concerned. However, even excluded activities may come within the scope of monitoring against money-laundering if the activities are carried on by any high risk entity.”

Clause six repeals the existing section of the principal Act requiring the registration of a PVO and replaces it with a more comprehensive provision that brings within the scope of registration certain trusts that were previously excluded from registration.

It requires organisations not previously within the scope of the PVO Act to now register as PVOs, but in these cases time will be given for compliance.

This means those organisations not registered as trusts, but which receive external funding to pursue objects of a charitable nature, such organisations will be afforded a reasonable period to comply with the Act.

The Bill requires non-testamentary trusts to now register because they receive external funding, including those non-testamentary trusts which have registered themselves with the Registrar of Deeds.

They will be afforded a reasonable period to comply with PVO Act.

“In each of the foregoing circumstances, a trust, body, or association of persons corporate or unincorporate or any institution that immediately before the commencement of the Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill, 2024, was lawfully operated in Zimbabwe before being required to be registered under the new law may, after commencing registration proceedings, continue to operate pending the outcome of those proceedings,” reads the Bill.

The Bill will amend the Private Voluntary Organisations Act and the preamble stipulates that one of its objectives is to comply with the recommendation of the international Financial Action Taskforce made to Zimbabwe in the area of the abuse of charities for the financing of criminal and terrorist activity.

“Further to this, it has also become necessary to streamline administrative procedures for private voluntary organisations to allow for efficient regulation and registration of charities, which are registered in Zimbabwe as private voluntary organisations,” it says.

Last year, President Mnangagwa exercised his right and withheld his assent on the PVO Amendment Bill.

There are two routes the Constitution provides where the President withhold assent on a Bill.

One route is that Parliament has to amend the Bill to fully accommodate all the Presidential reservations, so that the President will then accept it.

In the second, Parliament can override the Presidential reservations, but then needs to repass the Bill with a two thirds majority in the National Assembly within 21 days.

If the President does not agree he has an option to refer it to the Constitutional Court for advice on its constitutionality.

This is the second Bill President Mnangagwa has referred back to Parliament after he raised some reservations.

In 2018, President Mnangagwa referred back the Mines and Mining Amendment Bill after he felt that some of the clauses might violate the Constitution, particularly on property rights.

The President is empowered by Section 131 of the Constitution to refer back a Bill if he has some reservations on it.

Herald

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