1.4 Challenges Faced by QACA between 2004 and 2009
Despite the many gains that QACA achieved between 2004 and 2009, it had to overcome many challenges. First, the authority employed a small staff (less than 60 employees). Due to the small size of its workforce, the authority outsourced auditing services to third party entities such as PriceWaterhouse Coopers. Outsourcing of services became a major bone of contention between the authority and Islamic charities in Qatar. Some of the charities claim that the contracted third party auditors were unreliable and not objective, and that they could disclose confidential information to unauthorized parties. The charitable groups also complained that the routine audits conducted by the contracted auditors at the behest of QACA lacked clear terms of reference because the charities were not getting reports after the audits. Concern were also raised that the audit cycle was taking too long, which was too costly to the charities. The charities alleged that the contracted third parties were deliberately taking too long to complete the audit process so as to earn more money. These claims were refuted by QACA, but severely dented the organization’s image in the country.
Another issue of concern related to information exchange between QACA and the various charities and state agencies operating in Qatar. Immediately QACA was formed, it embarked on developing a system of communication network through which it could facilitate exchange of information with stakeholders. The authority could also use the communication system to electronically monitor each charitable group’s financial processes. Such a communication system was never implemented because the charitable sector felt that the system could violate the privacy and confidentiality of charities. Some charities expressed fears that financial information passed to QACA through the system could end up in the hands of the competitors. Due to these reservations, the communication system, though well intended, was never implemented. This severed communication between QACA on one hand, and Islamic charities and other stakeholders on the other (Jonathan, 2003).
Another challenge faced by QACA was the strong opposition from Qatar international charities which complained that the authority was biased because it played a dual role as a government regulator and as a charitable organization. In fact, part of QACA’s mandate was to provide charitable aid and humanitarian assistance. Accordingly, the authority was always involved in several instances of aid delivery especially during catastrophic disasters and in crisis hit areas. For example, it provided aid to Indonesia after the deadly tsunami of 2004. The authority also provided aid to Pakistan and China following a series of catastrophes. Other charity groups felt that QACA’s duality of roles created conflict of interest and exacerbated a state of competition between QACA (as a regulator) and the charities. This led to constrained relationships, making it difficult for QACA to execute its mandate effectively.
1.5 Dissolution of QACA
Qaca was disbanded in 2009 following a decision by the government to restructure state institutions and ministries. In the restructuring process, a number of small government agencies were merged into ministries. Resultantly, the activities of QACA were taken over by the Ministry of Social Affairs. During the five year period when the Qatar Authority on Charitable Activities existed, it achieved many successes, setting precedence for future oversight and control of the charity sector. In its oversight roles, the authority found no evidence that Qatari charities or their foreign partners were involved in any illegal activities such a terror financing or money laundering. This gave the Qatari charity sector a clean bill of health, making Qatar one of the few countries in the Middle East with a well managed, transparent and efficient charity sector. Although QACA has long been disbanded, the government continues to regulate and monitor the charity sector with the aim of ensuring that charitable funds are used to make the greatest impact and that they are not diverted to criminal activities.
As could be expected, the dissolution of QACA caused an immediate and long-lasting impact on the charity sector. Some charities felt that the dissolution was a sign of fragmentation in the government administration of public state agencies. Some feared that although the dissolution was not targeted exclusively at QACA, it could cause the charity sector to be regulated more stringently. Until the time of its dissolution, QACA had been considered the pioneer of a consultative framework for government coordination of the non-governmental sector. As such, some stakeholders felt the amalgamation of the activities of QACA with those of the ministry to be a wrong step taken by the government at a time when governments in other parts of the world were doing the opposite.