Enhancing Social and Voluntary Activities Post Lockdown and Post COVID-19

We Mrs. Magali Deliot and Mr. Yannick Cornet, both directors of ‘Planete Enfants Vulnerable’, a non-profit making organisation engaged in poverty alleviation, education of children, development and empowerment of families from vulnerable groups. We are writing this article to share some humble proposals which could ease the Post Lockdown and Post COVID-19 phase, awaiting our nation in the coming weeks.

  1. Compulsory wearing of protective face masks in public places

 On Saturday morning while reading on social media and getting feedbacks from people around, we were surprised by the number of persons voicing out and complaining about the announcement made on the eve by the Prime Minister with regards to the compulsory wearing of protective face masks in public places after the lockdown. Their main concern was about the fact that the vulnerable groups and even middle-class families may have to make a difficult choice between the purchase of adequate protective face masks or basic food necessities.

This unfortunate situation would sadden all persons who care and who wish to help their fellow citizens. Therefore, we have decided to come forward and propose a solution, which in our humble opinion could solve this dilemma.

  1. Supply and nationwide distribution of protective face masks

For instance, we have several local textile companies, which are currently manufacturing washable and reusable face masks[1].  Funds available from the National Social Inclusion Foundation (NSIF) could be used to buy around 1.2 million face masks produced locally.  This initiative will cost around MUR 32 million. These face masks could then be distributed freely through NGOs and NPOs which shall act as logistic partners of the NSIF and the Government for a door-to-door campaign to reach the SRM beneficiaries, pensioners, beneficiaries of social aids and middle class families having less that MUR 30,000 as monthly household income.

  1. Call for Proposals

Another proposal would be regarding the NSIF.  We recommend the launching of a Post COVID-19 Special Call for Proposal for NGOs and NPOs to run ‘Crisis Support Programs’ to help vulnerable groups, which will be facing hardship since the effects of this pandemic will be felt for the next months. This special call for proposal should be opened to all NGOs and NPOs, registered with NSIF or not, in order to avoid all forms of red tape because the support and contribution of every organisation shall be instrumental to provide the right response to this unprecedented crisis situation. As a matter of fact, during the lockdown individuals and NGOs from all walks of life have put their shoulders to the wheel to avoid a hunger crisis and provide other necessities to the needy.

However, NSIF should impose as prerequisites that the participating NGOs/NPOs should have in place an adequate and proper bookkeeping system, with cash and bank accounts adequately controlled; spending money properly and adequately; assets well managed; and committed to respecting principles of good corporate governance, transparency and accountability.

Furthermore, we would also suggest that for this Special Call for Proposals, the administrative costs and other overheads to run the ‘Crisis Support Programs’ are capped to 5% instead of the present 15% in order to ensure that at least 95% of the funds allocated by the NSIF are channelled towards alleviating hardship caused by the COVID-19.

  1. COVID-19 Bill

Consequently, we urge the Prime Minister to consider including in the forthcoming COVID-19 Bill a provision in the law to amend the Tenth Schedule of the Income Tax Act PART A to include Post COVID-19 support and alleviation so as to allow NSIF Fund to be used for that purpose.

  1. Create an enabling environment for volunteering

We also note that there is a worrisome trend that we should discourage, namely that NGOs and NPOs are nowadays depending largely, if not fully, on full-time employees and in some cases with lucrative pay checks. As a result, more and more CSR money are devoted towards management, administration and day-to-day running costs of NGOs and NPOs, instead of being channelled to the needy and most vulnerable.

For instance, out of the total amount approved for the ‘General Call for Proposal 2018’, that is, MUR 304 million, NGOs and NPOs were allowed approximately MUR 45.6 million as administrative and management expenses.

Instead, we should create an enabling environment for volunteering and increase the social recognition of voluntary activities by raising awareness of the public in general, and of young people in particular.  In the recent past, volunteering involves donating time with an organisation whose primary purpose is civic, charitable or humanitarian in nature, without promise, expectation or receipt of any type of compensation for services rendered.

This state of affairs lead us to propose that the Prime Minister’s Office together with the  Ministry of Social Integration, Social Security and National Solidarity, the NSIF and all other stakeholders should start, as soon as possible, a thorough process of rethinking how NGOs and NPOs are operating nowadays and are committed to their goals though social and voluntary activities. Evaluate the adequacy of the response and contribution of NGOs and NPOs registered with the NSIF during this COVID-19 crisis.

We must not let obvious major flaws continue to adversely affect the primary objectives of the CSR Fund if we want to safeguard the interests of the beneficiaries, that is the poor and the most vulnerable groups of our society.

  1. Removing red tape and streamlining the NSIF registration process

Our conclusion is that red tape and the registration eligibility criteria imposed by the NSIF contribute largely to these disfunctions and lead to a perversion of the current system, which protects large enterprises who have setup their own ‘Foundations’ and to which their CSR contributions are channelled.  The demarcation line between projects geared towards the community by these so-called foundations and public relations & building brand image initiatives is very often unclear.  This is a matter of direct concern to us, who very often lack essential funding to bring our projects to reality.

Last but not least, identifying priority areas which require immediate actions in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic is essential to ensure that the CSR Fund is properly used to help the poor and most unfortunate of the society, but also creating community and economic empowerment.

[1] https://www.mcci.org/media/252247/communique-sale-of-face-masks.pdf

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