Thursday, 7 July, 2022

NGO Bureau justifies scrapping of Odhikar’s registration

Violation of rules, financial irregularities main concerns

  • Staff Correspondent
  • 13 June, 2022 12:00 AM
  • Print news
NGO Bureau justifies scrapping of Odhikar’s registration

NGO Affairs Bureau of the Prime Minister’s Office has scrapped the renewal of the non-government organisation Odhikar due to financial irregularities and other misdeeds.  

The state agency claimed that although Odhikar was obligated to provide updated information about its activities including its workforce and projects, the organisation did not provide any information in the last seven years. 

Amid criticism over the rejection of Odhikar’s renewal application, the NGO Bureau came up with the explanation.

On June 5, a letter was issued from the Bureau of NGO Affairs stating specific reasons and explanations for rejecting the renewal application of Odhikar.

Odhikar, a private voluntary organisation, received registration from NGO Bureau on March 25, 1995.    

Since its inception, the organisation has been producing quarterly and annual reports on the law and order and human rights situation in the country and sending them to various donor groups and embassies in the West.     In addition, comments and statements are made on behalf of the organisation on various contemporary issues which are widely publicised in various international media.

Various international organisations prepare their reports based on the rights report. Although Odhikar has published comments and statements on sensitive issues, the transparency of the report disseminated by Odhikar and the source of the information have been debated at various times.

Adilur Rahman Khan, the founder and main leader of the Odhikar, served as Deputy Attorney General from October 2001 to May 2007.

Odhikar sparked a major controversy by publishing a list of those killed in clashes between law enforcement and Hefazat activists in Motijheel, Dhaka on May 5 and 6, 2013.

On June 10, Odhikar published a fact-finding report on their website, which claimed that 61 Hefazat activists had been killed in the clashes. Preliminary investigations by law enforcement found several significant inconsistencies in the report.

For example, having 5 names more than once, adding 11 fictitious names, adding the names of those who died due to physical illness to the list, adding the names of six people who died outside Dhaka to the list, etc.

To rectify the confusion that arose after the publication of the report, the Ministry of Information on 10 July 2013 under the Right to Information Act directed Odhikar to send the report containing the details of the list to the Ministry, but Odhikar expressed reluctance to entertain the request.

They also did not send the key details of the report to the NGO bureau on the pretext of confidentiality. As a result, on 10 July 2013, a case was filed under the Information Technology Act against Adilur Rahman Khan, General Secretary of Odhikar and Nasir Uddin Allan, Director of Odhikar, in which Adilur Rahman was arrested and later granted bail. The case is currently pending in the Dhaka Cyber Tribunal.

On behalf of ‘Odhikar’, on September 25, 2014, an application was made to the Bureau of NGO Affairs for the renewal of its registration.

Per the Foreign Donations (Voluntary Activities) Regulation Act 2016, re-registration of any NGO is determined based on observation of its activities during the previous 10 years at the time of screening.

The following inconsistencies are found in the review of the activities of the NGO by the NGO Bureau:

According to section 91 of the Foreign Donations (Voluntary Activities) Regulation Act 2016, an NGO can receive all foreign donations received in foreign currency or local currency through a fixed bank account of any scheduled bank. In defiance of the aforesaid law, the company has managed eight accounts including two personal accounts.

As a non-profit organisation, an NGO cannot invest in any profitable sector. But a personal account was opened in the name of Adilur Rahman with the grant received from ‘Odhikar’ and an FDR was made by transferring money from Odhikar’s account. Which is a clear violation of the Foreign Donations (Voluntary Activities) Regulation Act 2016.

At the time of the re-registration application, the NGO had eight audit objections.

The government’s intelligence agencies informed the NGO Bureau about the negative activities and inconsistencies in financial transactions in three projects of Odhikar. The bureau later asked them to explain the matter more than once, but Odhikar could not provide a satisfactory explanation.

According to section 8 of the circular of the Bureau of NGO Affairs, the NGOs will complete any project in coordination with the local administration and submit the project report to the local administration every year at the end of the project period. But Odhikar did not inform the local administration or submit any project report.

Later, Adilur Rahman Khan filed a writ petition in the High Court on May 13, 2019, seeking directions to renew its registration. The court sought relevant explanations from the NGO Bureau by May 27, 2019.

The reply was given on behalf of the NGO Bureau on May 23, 2019 as per the directions of the court. However, due to the reluctance of the lawyer of the Odhikar, no hearing of the writ was held for almost three years. The writ petition hearing was held in April this year.

Odhikar has been conducting its activities for the last 7 years without renewal of license.

Despite repeated written requests from the NGO Affairs Bureau, they have continued their activities without any communication with the NGO Bureau, citing a court writ. In order to prolong the legal process, the lawyer for Odhikar has been constantly changing the date of the court hearing.