02 / 1999
The gap between expectations and the current situation is illustrated by a statement by a Southern NGO official:« I tell Northern NGOs that I would like the funds planned in the contract to follow a yearly schedule: 50% in January (to ensure that we are able to implement the designed programme), 45 % at the end of the first half-year, after monitoring expenses, and finally 5 % after the audit. They answer:« No, we cannot follow that procedure. We do not have enough with our own funds, we have to wait for payments by our provider of funds ».
External financial contributions are paid by instalments and are in no way a continuous process. Money comes in, but it is allocated for a specific operation and not for another one; then for several months, no funds arrive. How can one work under such conditions? The budget of an organisation is a global, comprehensive reality and several items must be financed simultaneously for this total process to operate correctly. A Southern organisation may seem wealthy for a few months and then penniless for the following months if it depends on a limited number of Northern partners. Moreover, if it does not fully master its management or if it began to implement its activity before the co-financing contract was signed, the situation can become disastrous. And precisely, in the Sahel, planning is anything but an easy process. To these factors, one must add many instances of mismanagement, of incompetent book-keeping and incapacity to prove expenses.
Even more disturbing is the unpredictability of fund transfers in time. Northern NGOs first attend to their own operating expenses. With a few exceptions, they do not consider the cash management problems of their Southern partners as a priority. They send the money allocated to projects when co-financing funds are paid out by public agencies. Northern NGOs which do not have access to general public"charity"contributions depend more and more on public provider of funds: they are dependant as regards the actions they choose to carry out and their scheduling; they are dependant almost every day as their cash management hinges on unpredictable money transfers by donors. The leaders and the personnel of Southern NGOs are the first to suffer from this situation: wages are withheld and debts accumulate over years (if the local NGO has a good reputation). A British expert criticises the hypocrisy prevailing in this realm:« The donors require that NGOs master financial planning, management and monitoring; but these same donors are unreliable when it comes to paying out funds. Thus they ridicule their own self-righteous"professionalism ».
[Fiche produite dans le cadre du débat public « Acteurs et processus de la coopération », appelé à nourrir la prochaine Convention de Lomé (relations Union Européenne/Pays ACP). Lancé à l’initiative de la Commission Coopération et Développement du Parlement Européen et soutenu par la Commission Européenne, ce débat est animé par la FPH.]
LECOMTE, Bernard, L’Harmattan (France)