Government’s decision to ramp up its oversight of charities is being welcomed by at least one local organisation, which has described the move as a way of ending negative public speculation about the integrity of these NGO’s.
This morning, head of the Barbados Vagrants and Homeless Society (BVHS), Kemar Saffrey, told Barbados TODAY that with Government’s demand for financial accountability through annual financial reports lodged with the Corporate Affairs department, the public will have a first-hand account of what is done with the money they give.
Saffrey pointed that his organisation’s integrity has at times been called into question by some members of the public based on unfounded rumours, and had it not been for the filing of BVHS’ accounts each year, those damaging seeds may have taken root.
“Charities are always subject to a wide range of perceptions. There has always been widespread speculation about whether money is being used for the purpose it was collected. I always say that the best way to find that out is to go into Corporate Affairs and see for themselves. People speculate in the media and then everybody jumps on it and thinks that the charity is not doing what it is supposed to be doing. Once charities fill out their financial statement each year then it is a public document and once everybody does this then there is no room for speculation,” said Saffrey.
“Even when it comes to my charity people have made speculations about whether I am taking the money to buy big cars and big house and it may not be because of anything I have done, but the reality is that some charities have made things bad for others. However, I have nothing to worry about because I file financial records each year because it is the law.”
On Friday, Attorney General Dale Marshall made it clear that the days of charities governing themselves with little to no oversight are over, declaring a “new world” required greater scrutiny of their financial affairs.
Fearing the possibility of being blacklisted for lax international anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism enforcement, the Minister said Government is taking steps to ensure that these NGOs are subjected to greater accountability.
Charities will be required to submit their financial reports each year. The submission will include the source of income and associations outside of Barbados. Failure to comply could mean the charities are de-listed, Marshall said.
Efforts earlier this year to gather this information have yielded little results and the time has come for Government to have a firmer hand, he declared.
“We risk effectively being blacklisted in the international arena and the significance of this is that this blacklisting would likely result in the loss of correspondent banking to Barbadian financial institutions. This is not idle conjecture because in the past, the Caribbean region had about 20 correspondent banks, now we are just under 15,” Marshall said
However, Saffrey, who sits on the board for the National Network of NGO’s, contends that apart from international considerations, charities have a responsibility to show benefactors that their contributions are not being used for a purpose other than intended. In fact, he told Barbados TODAY that he intends to go a step further than what Government demands by printing the BVHS’ annual financials on the organisation’s website.
“At the end of the day it is not your money and you have to let people know how their money is being spent. So, I will be publishing our financials on our website and I encourage other charities to do the same. You have private companies which publish their annual report for the public, so I can’t see why charities would have a problem doing something similar,” he stressed. [email protected]