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New law passed to regulate clubs and NGOs

A contentious government bill regulating the operation of clubs and foundations was voted into law, following a tumultuous plenary session on Friday.

The aim of the bill had been to make the regulatory framework tighter, in order to address issues of accountability, transparency and taxation for clubs and societies.

In a statement, volunteerism commissioner Yiannis Yiannakis welcomed the decision, noting that the new law “strengthens the credibility of non-governmental organisations in matters of financial transparency and good governance”.

“As approved, the law will strengthen the public’s trust in non-governmental organisations, exclude a number of registered NGOs that either don’t operate properly or are not transparent in their finances, thus enhancing the public’s willingness to engage the sector of volunteerism and NGOs,” Yiannakis said.

Earlier, the plenary session was interrupted for 15 minutes at the request of ruling Disy, after an amendment proposed by Diko to exclude clubs and foundations, whose operation is governed by other laws, from the scope of the new, tighter rules, was rejected in a tied vote.

It is understood that the only club whose operation is regulated by other laws is the Nicosia Racing Club.

During discussion, main opposition Akel, the Green party and the Citizens’ Alliance, charged that the exemption is being sought to protect financial interests related to the racing club.

Disy then moved that the vote on the bill be postponed, but the motion was defeated in a tied vote.

Disy and Diko voted in favour of postponing the vote, for a tally of 25, with the rest of the parties, which also clocked in at 25, opposed.

The ruling party then requested that the vote be repeated.

In the meantime, Disy MP Eleni Stavrou, who had been absent in the first vote, was called back to the plenum, resulting in a 26 to 25 vote.

Parties opposed protested the move, and House Speaker Demetris Syllouris decided not to accept the second vote.

At this point, Disy leader Averof Neophytou requested a 15-minute break to consult with his parliamentary group.

After the break, Diko returned with an oral proposed amendment, which would exclude all clubs from the scope of the bill.

Diko’s argument was that the bill did not adequately provide for the status of clubs’ assets after passage of the bill, despite there being a one-year transition period until full implementation.

Allowing oral amendments to be tabled during a plenary session is at the Speaker’s discretion, to be used in exceptional instances.

After some deliberation, Syllouris decided not to allow the motion, arguing that, if any shortcomings are identified in the bill, parliament can address them at a later stage through amending legislation.



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