NGO bank accounts under government scrutiny

By Bandula Sirimanna

The Government’s NGO Secretariat has asked mostly foreign-funded NGOs and INGOs for details of their bank accounts in a move that has surprised many local and foreign aid workers.

Some workers said they believed this was part of the investigation against defeated Presidential candidate Gen. Sarath Fonseka to ascertain whether he had received any foreign funds through some of these agencies. A senior official at the NGO Secretariat confirmed that letters had been sent out but declined to say who it has been sent to.

However the official, who declined to be named, said one organisation – a Canadian NGO - has objected to the move through the Canadian High Commission (acting on its behalf) which had said it was a violation of privacy rules and confidentiality. Officials of two local agencies, who had received letters, told the Sunday Times that they believed only the Central Bank has a right to call for details of bank accounts.

However a Central Bank official said the NGO Secretariat has the power to call for the accounts of all NGOs and may also have authority to scrutinise bank accounts.

NGO sources said the Government was looking into all aspects of information received that certain elements in society have got illegal funding from INGOs and NGOs, with a view to destabilizing democracy and the government.

They said the moves were aimed at tracing such transactions, and to punish, through legal means, those individuals and groups involved. The NGO Secretariat official said seeking details of bank accounts was a routine affair as most NGOs operate in contravention of the law and state policies.

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