Individuals will no longer be able to cover multiple top roles within voluntary organisations under proposed amendments which seek, among other aims, to prevent abuses within such organisations.
The proposed bill, which amends the Voluntary Organisation Act and consequentially amends other legislation, was unanimously approved by Parliament in its second reading.
Parliamentary Secretary for Voluntary Organisations Clifton Grima noted that the bill is the latest in a series of reforms seeking to increase transparency within the voluntary sector. Among other matters, previous laws have mandated that voluntary organisations needed to be registered with the Commissioner for Voluntary Organisations.
The new bill highlights four roles which it deems crucial in any organisation – that of president, vice-president, treasurer and secretary – and once it becomes law, all four roles will have to be covered by different persons in every organisation.
Grima recognised that people involved in the voluntary sector have often covered multiple roles in good faith, in a bid to keep the organisation running, but said that while this may have been acceptable in the past, the practice needed to change. Such arrangements could be grounds for abuse, possibly allowing individuals to misappropriate the funds managed by the organisation they manage.
The bill also strengthens the powers of the commissioner, allowing them to access information from public authorities to look into the background of those running voluntary organisations. On the basis of such information, even if it is confidential, the commissioner may refuse to permit individuals to cover particular top roles within such organisations.
Voluntary organisations should get MCESD spot – Cutajar
In his own intervention, opposition whip Robert Cutajar – the Nationalist Party’s spokesperson on voluntary organisations – said that it was time for these organisations to be represented in the Malta Council for Economic and Social Developmnet.
He noted that the sector comprised some 45,000 persons, including volunteers and employees alike.
Fellow PN MP Ivan Bartolo, on his part, emphasised the need of accountability in the sector, whilst recognising that it was not easy to find people ready to commit to helping others.