Brazil increases oversight of NGOs, control of public funding

SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Brazil’s government is increasing oversight over nongovernment organizations working in the country and will control public funds given to such groups, Government Secretary Carlos dos Santos Cruz said in a local interview published on Monday.

Cruz said the initiative will help determine whether the organizations are fulfilling their role of carrying out works that complement government actions.

His remarks, published on the G1 news portal, come on the heels of an executive order issued last week giving the new administration of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro potentially far-reaching and restrictive powers over nongovernmental organizations.

“The government’s intention is to optimize the use of public funds and bring more benefits” to the people assisted by the NGOs, Cruz said.

He denied the intention was to restrict their activity.

“The plan is not to interfere in the life of the organizations or restrict anything. But it’s public money. There needs to be transparency and there needs to be results,” Cruz said.

Leaders of NGOs that work in Brazil, such as Jose Miguel Vivanco, director of the Americas division of Human Rights Watch, said the decree on NGOs could be viewed in a positive light, but also expressed concerns.

If the new rules “facilitate a constructive relationship between international civil society groups and the government,” that is positive. But Vivanco said he was also worried about how far the Bolsonaro government will go in monitoring the groups.

Rules to increase oversight over nongovernment organizations was one of the very first acts of Bolsonaro, the right-wing president sworn-in on Jan. 1.

Bolsonaro’s temporary decree, which expires unless it is ratified within 120 days by Congress, gives Cruz’s office the power to “supervise, coordinate, monitor and accompany the activities and actions of international organizations and nongovernmental organizations in the national territory.”

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