By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
ATTORNEY Fred Smith yesterday echoed concerns levelled by civil society over the proposed Non-Profit Organisations Bill, calling the legislation a complete invasion of privacy rights.
Mr Smith, who holds director posts at environmental group Save The Bays and advocacy group Rights Bahamas, told The Tribune the bill also threatens constitutional protections for freedom of association.
“It’s an invasion of our right to privacy,” he said, “of our constitutionally protected right. It’s a complete invasion of our right to private correspondence. It’s an abomination against civil society.”
The NPO Bill requires all such organisations to be registered with a new regulator - the registrar of non-profit organisations.
Organisations must show “evidence” that they are aware of the funding sources and the background of their donors - in order to become registered. It also mandates that all non-profits provide the registrar with details on donations that exceed $50,000 - either in total or as a lump sum - and of their ten largest contributors every two years.
Finance Minister K Peter Turnquest defended government’s intention to legislate non-profit organisations last week.
The bill was part of a compendium of financial services bills the government seeks to pass to further comply with international tax standards.
Mr Turnquest explained the decision to regulate groups was meant to increase transparency while safeguarding the country against international risks, adding the government did not want to overly interfere or monitor their activities.
The bill was set to pass in the Senate yesterday but a vote has been delayed in the face of criticism from civil society.