10 October 2005
"Malta and Gozo are fortunate to have a highly active voluntary sector. This White Paper and the attached proposed Voluntary Organisations Act aim to give the sector the necessary legal framework and support,” said Family and Social Solidarity Minister, Dolores Cristina, during the recent launch and presentation of the document, attended by a significant number of NGO representatives.
The consultation period which extends to the end of October will give ample opportunity to interested parties to voice their opinion on the subject, before the Bill is presented and discussed in Parliament.
“The wide-ranging work undertaken by the voluntary sector is very useful,” said the Minister, “and the proposed legislation will recognise and further strengthen the sector while providing support and various privileges. Recognition of voluntary organisations will mean that access to international and European projects will be much easier. Furthermore, the credibility of the organisations themselves will be enhanced through better accountability and transparency, so that the interests of the clients and the public at large are safeguarded.”
Until now, most voluntary organisations have done very well with regards to self-regulation. Whilst the voluntary organisations will continue to preserve their autonomy and character, the Act will seek to regulate the sector in a more coordinated and holistic manner. It will create a special focus for the harmonization of policies and rules concerning voluntary organisations. The White Paper outlines the functions of the Commissioner for Voluntary Organisations, who will offer guidance and advice as well as the relevant monitoring. The Voluntary Organisations Fund aims to assist enrolled organisations through management support, education and financial grants. The National Council for the Voluntary Sector will act as a platform for cooperation between Voluntary Organisations and Government. The members of this Council shall widely represent the voluntary sector and act as a consultative body to the Commissioner.
In addition to the abovementioned legislation, amendments to the Civil Code will also be proposed, which amendments will deal with the concept of ‘legal personality’, through which the various entities may operate.
On the other hand, the proposed Voluntary Organisations Act aims to deal with the currently existing lacunae confronting the sector, define the relevant areas and address structural issues such as the lack of a central supporting and regulating body.