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Gardner, Michael and Macanda, Mmeli (2003) An Independent Research Report on the National Development Agency .  Centre for Civil Society  Research Report 4: 1-35.

The history and the establishment of the National Development Agency (NDA) have been punctuated by delays, anxiety and panic that have threatened the financial sustainability of many civil society organisations (CSOs). The first chapter of this Report casts doubt on whether the NDA learned lessons from its predecessor, the Transitional National Development Trust (TNDT). It further reveals that the NDA’s location in relation to government is still uncertain and that its structural relations have not been fully conceptualised. It goes on to say that the Government’s dishonouring of its commitment to make gradual increases in allocations, the lack of continuity, the absence of institutional memory and the shortage of expertise and shared experience have all had an adverse affect on the work of the NDA.

Chapter two argues for the amendment of the National Development Agency Act so that the NDA is obliged to account to the non-profit sector and the public at large. Further, the amendments should provide for additional monitoring of the NDA to ensure that it adheres to its mandate. The Act should provide for appeal procedures against NDA decisions and all legislation affecting the non-profit sector should be aligned and made coherent.

Chapter three demonstrates that the NDA has narrowed its focus and has not disbursed the funds and support that could have been disbursed. Further, the NDA has ignored section 3(1)(b) of the NDA Act by not working with other NGOs and grantmakers as intermediaries. Instead, it has opted for decentralisation and has been working with community based organisations (CBOs) that it regards as being involved in direct service of communities.

Chapter four argues that in its orientation and expressed preferences, the NDA appears to be drifting away from civil society towards government. By embracing the government’s market-oriented policies, the NDA, runs the risk of perpetuating rather than combating poverty.

Chapter five synthesizes all the sub-arguments of the Report in a list of recommendations. The report finds that the NDA has not been able to implement its mandate in its entirety. It is also argued that government cannot fight and eradicate poverty effectively without the partnership of civil society. What is needed is a strong agency that facilitates maximum effectiveness of the combined resources of government and civil society. The Report recommends more commitment from government, closer monitoring of the NDA and amendment of the NDA Act to increase accountability to civil society. Civil society also needs to organise itself into adequate representative structures. Finally, a thorough and further investigation of all these issues is necessary to indicate exactly how the structural relations between government, the NDA and civil society can best be established for the urgent eradication of poverty.

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