Touria Prayag's Blog

l’Express Weekly, 22 October 2010

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on October 25, 2010

Editorial Click here to read l’Express Weekly

In the CSR jungle

Those who know that there is nothing spontaneous
about Xavier Luc Duval, a seasoned politician, will
have realized that his diplomatic cautionary advice
to the private sector (to carefully choose Non-Governmental
Organisations (NGOs) before allocating Corporate
Social Responsibility (CSR) funds to them and to ensure
accountability) is a hugely understated warning.
By contrast, the very spontaneous Satish Boolell put it bluntly
in an interview he gave to lexpress.mu: “Since NGOs cannot be
controlled by government, there was an outbreak of the NGO epidemic
and it spread like cancer.” Few will contradict him when he adds
that “some people set up NGOs solely to be able to benefi t from
free trips and other advantages.” Some of these advantages being,
amongst others, getting a foothold in politics.
A step back in recent history: in July 2009, compulsory CSR was
entrenched in the budget, putting an end to the smoke screen debate
about the difference between “compliance CSR” and “conviction
CSR”. The contribution of two per cent of the profi ts of each company,
which became mandatory, raised a lot of hope. Unfortunately,
not only among the poor. At the mere realization that one billion
rupees was at stake, eyes popped out and the number of NGOs,
already obscenely high at 7,285 in 2008, shot up to reach the astounding
fi gure of, hold your breath, 8,405 registered today! If you
bear in mind that an NGO has to have a minimum of 7 people to be
registered, you will have to concede that Satish Boolell is right: the
number of social workers far exceeds the number of underprivileged
souls who, according to the National Economic and Social Council
report for May 2010, number 7,000 families.
To put things in perspective, there are only 4,079 NGOs in
the U.K. for a population of nearly fi fty nine million! The question
which begs an answer then is: “If the charitable spirit is so much more
widespread in this country, how come we don’t see it on our roads, in
our towns and villages, in our offi ces, in our households?”
The reason why so many social workers have sprouted in every
nook and corner of the island is obvious and has nothing to do with
charity. What is less obvious is why no systems have been put in
place to check any possible abuse. Far from us the idea of undermining
the wonderful work done by a fraction of NGOs who have
genuinely made a difference to the lives of many citizens, but one
has to concede that many of what have come to be called “briefcase
NGOs” are more motivated by personal gain than by any intention
of helping those who are in need. Some are run like family kingdoms.
Expectations of Xavier Duval’s newly-created Ministry are very
high and the underprivileged of our community still have hope that
the government will help them climb out of poverty. However, if he
does not put his foot down and set up some control systems in the
CSR-NGO jungle, his bilan at the end of his mandate will be nil. If
the money continues to go into the wrong pockets for the wrong
reasons, he may fi nd himself answerable to people who are worse
off and completely disillusioned.
Also, since social work no longer necessarily rhymes with voluntary
work, employment within that sector has to be regulated and
meritocracy installed. Minister Duval has to act now. Giving veiled
warnings is not good enough. Let CSR not be merely a way of making
companies more visible and opportunists richer!

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