|Date: Apr 26, 2019|
|Source: The Daily Star|
|Ministry ends contracts with 20 social care NGOs|
|Emily Lewis| The Daily Star|
BEIRUT: The Social Affairs Ministry has canceled its contracts with 20 social support organizations for failing to comply with the ministry’s regulations despite multiple warnings.
Social Affairs Minister Richard Kouyoumjian announced during a news conference Thursday that the contracts with these NGOs had cost the ministry LL531 million ($352,000), a significant expenditure for the ministry’s limited budget, which he said was “no more than 1 percent of the state budget.” The 2018 state budget accorded the ministry 0.954 percent of the entire budget, according to the Finance Ministry.
Kouyoumjian did not provide the names of the affected organizations, saying that while they did not comply with all the terms set out by the ministry, they were still doing good work. “I do not want to insult any of them,” the minister said.
He said the NGOs were the ministry’s “primary partner in serving disabled persons, children, abused people, women, those suffering from addiction and the homeless.”
Asked for details on what regulations the affected NGOs had failed to comply with, a Social Affairs Ministry spokesperson told The Daily Star that the contract stipulations varied from organization to organization, and are related to issues such as operation hours and required training programs.
According to statistics provided by the source, the ministry has contracts with 594 NGOs divided across five categories.
The measure marked the first step in a wider cost-cutting and transparency campaign within the ministry. Kouyoumjian said that written warnings had been sent to 30 additional organizations to comply with regulations before the end of 2019, or their contracts would also be canceled.
The minister also addressed the issue of adjusting payment to the NGOs, which is still based on a cost assessment from 2011, to reflect expenditures for 2019.
He said paying NGOs in the correct manner was a “priority” for the ministry. Representatives of dozens of NGOs contracted with the Social Affairs Ministry to provide services to disabled people told The Daily Star earlier this year that they had not received their payments from the government through all of 2018.
Some organizations had to take out bank loans and stopped paying staff to avoid closing their doors.
The NGOs were paid for the first six months of 2018 this month, but are still awaiting payment for the second half of the year, which is expected to happen after the passage of the 2019 state budget, Moussa Charafeddine, the president of the National Union on Intellectual Disabilities, told The Daily Star Thursday.
Charafeddine also praised the minister’s “marvelous” move, saying canceling the contracts improved efficiency within the ministry and gave credit to legitimate organizations.
However, he criticized the fact that contracts for 2019 between NGOs and the ministry had not yet been signed, though the NGOs continued their work. This was confirmed by the ministry source, who added that they would be signed after the budget was passed.