29 January 2007
The revised legal framework for the Voluntary Organisations Act and the amendments to the Civil Code were discussed during Tuesday’s parliamentary session. The Voluntary Organisations Act describes an organisation as being a group of people who share a common goal and vision. Such groups may come together for philanthropic, social or private purposes.
As Parliamentary Secretary, Tony Abela stated in a prior debate, voluntary organisations are of utter importance. An organisation, however, does have the right to choose whether to register or otherwise. Not enrolling an organisation does not entail losing the organisation’s effects, its rights and responsibilities.
Some organisations may choose to remain unregistered for various reasons, namely because the organisation might have few members and also because some organisations might be dormant, that is, its members meet on rare occasions.
However, registration may bring about certain benefits such as legalising, formalising and above all, increasing the importance and status of the organisation. Such certified organisations have certain rights such as those of purchasing movable and immovable property, opening bank accounts and so forth.
The technicalities of registering an organisation were also described. These include having a clear name, address and registration number of such an organisation. The administrator of the organisation must also be decided upon.
Moreover, those organisations who choose to enrol should present a copy of the constitutive deed or statute of the organisation, details of administrators and the enrolment fees in certain cases. Some organisations, especially those of a social nature, may be exempt.
Labour MP Angelo Farrugia emphasised the importance of registering an organisation. He stated that the Labour Party believes that all organisations, no matter how small, should be registered.
He added that some organisations might be wary about enrolling because its members might not fully understand that by registering the organisation, one is being protected.
Dr Farrugia emphasised the importance of each organisation having a statute which should be formulated and discussed by its members. This statute should include a description of the specific aims and objectives of such organisation, the appointment of the administrator and other persons involved in the running of the organisation, when the members should meet, issues regarding annual general meetings and the like.
Additionally Dr Farrugia said that those organisations which choose not to register should still have a statute written in a clear and sensible manner to avoid misunderstandings by the members of the organisation and others. Dr Farrugia also remarked that charity organisations in particular need to be more regulated, since public donations are involved.
With regards to making donations, he stated that people should have valid reasons for giving such donations to avoid potential abuse, for instance, in certain cases whereby people give a donation to a person or organisation, expecting that someone will take care of them in return.
In conclusion, Dr Farrugia stated that there should be serious consequences, handed down by court judgement, attached to those organisations which are either not performing the organisation’s functions or caught mishandling funds, or going against its statute.
He also claimed that a person who has committed an illegal act, related to such organisations, should not be allowed to form part of an organisation’s administration, for at least 10 years after having committed the crime.