A new Web site putting the contact information of more than 70,000 non-profit organizations (NPOs) online was announced yesterday by the Ministry of the Interior, with plans to consider revisions to the Civil Associations Act (人民團體法) to allow additional information to be publicized.
“The range of government bodies responsible for regulating different types of civil organizations is extremely diverse, including all sorts of national ministries, as well as local governments,” said Chen Chih-chang (陳志章), the deputy director of the ministry’s Cooperative and Civil Associations Preparatory Office.
“For a citizen to understand how an organization functioned or verify that it was officially registered used to be unclear and inconvenient,” Chen said. “Providing this information meets a need and with the integrated map feature it will make it easier for people to find organizations near where they live, encouraging participation.”
The new Web site allows for searches using a wide variety of parameters including region, organization name and type. Organizations’ addresses and telephone numbers are listed, as well as their publically registered leader or responsible person.
Information omitted includes financial reports and names of board members, both of which organizations are required to submit to their governing bodies regularly after registration.
Registration allows NPOs to gain a legal personage, letting them set up their own bank accounts, compete for government contracts and claim tax exemptions.
“Moving in the direction of greater openness is an irreversible trend, but how much information should be opened up is still something we have to discuss in full with these groups,” Chen said, adding that because there were logistical and legal challenges to releasing further information on the NPOs, the ministry would hold discussions with groups before proposing amendments to the Civil Associations Act (人民團體法).
Because the ministry’s Web site relies on information provided by other government agencies for many organizations, guaranteeing timely and accurate updates on the names of organizations’ board members would be difficult, he said, adding that privacy was also a concern.
“The president of an organization is responsible for it and has to be willing to step forward, but whether or not an individual board should be obligated to do the same is something that deserves full discussion,” Chen said.
He said that there were also privacy concerns to publicizing financial reports.
“Financial reports will touch on individual salaries for the president and employees,” Chen said. “The Civil Associations Act mandates that after an organizations’ budget is passed, it has to be submitted to us for reference and approval. That’s as far as it goes – it doesn’t say that we have the right to let everyone know this information.”
The database can be accessed at npo.moi.gov.tw/npom/.
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