Muscat: Have you ever wondered about the authenticity of that little box, into which you put your money for a cause of charity? Chances are you mostly have not.
As more people throng shopping centres and mosques, dozens of fund boxes await them at the entrances, with the purpose being to raise money for various charities. The purported objectives of those funds vary from building mosques to helping poor families.
Meanwhile, more than 500 beggars were held by the anti-begging squad in raids across Muscat governorate last year, according to the latest data from the Ministry of Social Development. When people read about such numbers, they wonder how much of their donations offered through these boxes are put to bona fide uses. Also, some wonder about the authenticity of these boxes.
Despite the efforts of the authorities to combat begging, those seeking alms adopt ever-more innovative ways to circumvent the hurdles.
The Ministry of Social Development has already urged caution while dealing with such appeals, and asked the public to check the authenticity and sincerity of those asking for charitable funds. The department of associations and communities' clubs monitor such actions by the associations when they raise money from the public.
A reliable source at the department of associations and communities' clubs at the Ministry of Social Development explained that it is not permissible for any party or organisation to cite any objective for raising money from the public for charitable purposes without first obtaining a licence from authorities at the Ministry of Social Development.
"No licence can be obtained to collect money from the public for charitable purposes, except in accordance with certain conditions," said the source. The conditions necessary to obtain a licence to collect money from the public include registering the executing agency that collects money in the ministry's records. The agency should seek permission from authorities at least two months before it solicits donations.
The source confirmed that the ministry approves many agencies to collect money from the public, but there are also many unlicensed funds.
"The public must make sure that anyone seeking funds through boxes displays the licence sticker approved by the ministry for the fund," said the source.
"The public should notice the fund's licence and the name of the executing agency for collecting money, since the ministry is keen to not allow such money collections for more than three months for any charitable purpose."
The source added that if such a licence sticker is absent, or the fund has been in existence for more than three months, they must avoid dealing with the fund and inform concerned authorities.
The ministry is making intensive efforts to address the issue of begging by assigning a task force to monitor the funds. "The ministry does not issue more than two licences for each executing agency for collecting money in any single year," noted the source.
He added that the ministry also seeks a comprehensive report about utilisation of money collected, including all revenues and expenditures, along with authentic documents, within two weeks from the date when the collection period ends.
In case of violations of any provisions of collecting funds, the ministry takes legal action, warning the executing agency against collecting money and rectifying any violation within a period, not exceeding one week, or suffer withdrawal of their licence.
The source noted that the ministry is conservative when it comes to cases in which irregularities are found or if the fund fails to contact the concerned party at the ministry.
Did you know?
-- It's not allowed to raise money from the public for charitable purposes, without obtaining a licence from the competent authority at the Ministry of Social Development
-- No licence can be obtained to collect money from