Big Win for NGOs as Ruto Enacts Public Benefits Organisation Act

A significant change with regard to the legal framework for NGOs has come in the form of the Public Benefit Organizations Act 2013 (“PBO Act”), which upon commencement will repeal the Non-Governmental Organizations Coordination Act (“NGO Act”).

President William Ruto has announced the long-awaited operationalization of the Public Benefits Organization (PBO) Act, which has languished in legal limbo for over a decade. The move spells a breath of relief for civil society organisations that have been pushing for the operationalisation of the Act since 2012.

Speaking during the closing ceremony of the United Nations Civil Society Conference in Nairobi on Friday, May 10, President Ruto disclosed that he has taken decisive action to breathe life into the dormant legislation.

He revealed that on Thursday, May 9, he executed the necessary legal instruments to give effect to the PBO Act, effectively transforming it into law.

The PBO Act, initially passed by Parliament in December 2012 and subsequently approved by the President in January 2013, aims to establish a comprehensive legal, regulatory, and institutional framework for non-profit organizations engaged in public benefit work across Kenya, consolidating various regulations under a single statute.

Despite its legislative approval, the Act had remained inactive. This inactivity prompted civil society to seek recourse through the judiciary, resulting in a landmark judgment on October 31, 2016. 

The court ordered the government to gazette the implementation date within fourteen days, a directive that went unheeded.

Subsequently, on May 12, 2017, another court order reiterated the mandate, granting the government a further thirty days to comply. Once again, the government failed to adhere to the judicial directive. The prolonged delay in setting a commencement date for the Act has posed significant challenges in determining its applicability.

Furthermore, the absence of a clear legal framework has complicated matters, particularly in instances where the provisions of the PBO Act have been invoked in judicial decisions. With two reported High Court rulings relying on the Act’s provisions, the ambiguity surrounding its enforcement has only intensified.

More to follow.

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