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IJM Australia (International Justice Mission)

This is review[1] in the series ‘Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) Members.’ ACFID ‘is the peak body for Australian non-government organisations (NGOs) involved in international development and humanitarian action.’ It requires Members to adhere to a Code of Conduct. ‘International Justice Mission Australia’ is one such Member[2] (a ‘Full Member’).

 

The name in the ACFID membership list links to a website for ‘IJM.’ Here they seek donations from the public.

 

Donors

 

The ACNC, in their articleDonating to Legitimate Charities, gives “some things to consider to help you make sure your donation is going where it is intended”:

  1.   Check the charity’s name.
  2.   Ask for identification from anyone seeking a donation.
  3.   Be careful of online requests for donations.
  4.   No tax deduction doesn’t mean the charity is not a legitimate one, and
  5.   Find out more about how the charity says it uses donations.

 

Here’s the results for ‘International Justice Mission Australia’, with consideration also given to the essentials of the ACNC’s What should I consider when deciding which charity to support?[3]

 

Question 1

 

A search on the ACNC Register for ‘International Justice Mission Australia’ gives no result. ASIC shows this as a business name cancelled in 2017.

 

A second search, on the other name shown in the ACFID list, ‘IJM’, leads to IJM Australia Limited (IJM Australia).  

 

Question 2

 

IJM Australia permits you, with conditions, to fundraise for them door-to-door and in public places.

 

Question 3

 

The web address begins with a closed padlock symbol, so the website is secure [the ACNC article above].

 

But the donation process still has no information about the security of your information.

 

Question 4

 

IJM Australia’s ABN record (via the ACNC Register) shows that you are entitled to a tax deduction for your donation.

 

But there is still nothing about tax deductibility on the donation pages.

 

Question 5  How are donations used?

 

Context

 

IJM Australia describes its work this way:

 

 

But only if you include the overseas IJM organisations is this correct. IJM Australia’s work is limited to raising money in Australia for work to be performed by others overseas (page 6, Annual Report 2022):

 

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Saying on an Australian website, that IJM Australia, because it is part of an overseas group that is ending slavery, is also ending slavery, is something that many will say is defensible[4].

 

But to do this on the ACNC Register, the place people go to find out about the Australian-registered charity, and without any explanation of the relationship between that charity and the overseas work, is, in our view, deceptive (and perhaps illegal).

 

Sharing the Gospel[5]

 

No, it doesn’t:

 

 

How IJM Australia uses its revenue

 

The audited account of how donations are used is the Financial Report on the ACNC Register.

 

The directors signed a declaration [Director’s Declaration, Financial Report 2021] that included this statement:

 

 

For this to be true the financial statements had to comply with the Australian Accounting Standards (AASs). This means that the directors had to make the correct choice between the two types of financial statements, special purpose and general purpose.

 

The directors prepared special purpose statements.

 

The distinction is important because less will have to be reported with special purpose statements.

 

Special purpose financial statements are only appropriate when there are no users dependent on the other type. You don’t have this dependency if you can ring the IJM Australia office and ‘command the preparation of (financial) reports tailored so as to satisfy specifically all of …[your] information needs.’ If you can’t do this, then you are dependent on a regulator to specify the contents of IJM Australia’s financial report, and general purpose reports are required.

 

The directors of IJM Australia [Note 1, Financial Report 2021] said that there are no such users:

 

 

At the time of the decision, IJM Australia had

 

  • Professional management (28 employees) [AIS 2021]
  • Received $6.1 million in grants from the government [Financial Report 2021].
  • Had, based on the 2022 annual report, thousands of stakeholders all over Australia

 

It therefore stretches credulity to suggest that none of its users are dependent on the accounting regulator to get them the reports they need.

 

The choice of special purpose statements was done with the agreement of their auditor, Jeffrey Tulk, a Partner/Principal at Saward Dawson. And he did this despite this advice from his professional body, Chartered Accountants Australia & New Zealand:

 

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The evidence points to a false declaration of a true and fair view.

 

Other issues

 

  1. The only information for the largest expense, 67% of the total, is that it was sent to the parent company:

 

 

They don’t explain who ‘IJM Global’ is. Here it is, from their constitution [their ACNC Register entry]:

 

 

We presume that International Justice Mission Global is this organisation (i.e., without the ‘Global’:

 

 

And although not shown under ‘International Offices’ on the website, presumably this is the ‘IJM Global’ shown in the United States on page 9 of the Annual Report 2022.

 

  1. The Statement of Changes in Equity does not comply with the Accounting Standards.
  2. There is not Note on ‘key management.’
  3. Employee benefits expense is not disclosed.
  4. IJM Australia uses peer-to-peer fundraising:

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Two things:

  • If the risk is not within IJM Australia’s ‘internal control environment,’ i.e., none of their business, then why did they spend time and money ensuring ‘that cash collected during these events is complete’? And how did they do this?
  • IJM Australia’s ‘preferred platform for fundraising is Grassrootz.’ And it is used by its supporters. But with Grassrootz, there is very little risk that the money raised will ‘not be passed on to the organisation in full’:

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5.  The directors don’t explain why the audit fee has risen 82% (from $9K to $16K).

6.  The directors say that IJM Australia has intangible assets, but nowhere do they say what they are.

 

Directors

 

Neither the Annual Report 2022, nor the Financial Report 2021 show who were on the board when the accounts were issued (neither report has to, but it is good practice).

 

These are the people who are, the ACNC Register says, on the board now:

 

Lindsay Mcmillan

Adam Achterstraat

Jacqueline Hodges

Garth Tinsley

Christa Sharpe

Joanna Mansfield

Emma Ten Kate

Grant Dawson – this one?

Mario Falchoni

 

If it is this Grant Dawson, he was, up until a year ago, a Senior Consultant with the firm that supplies the current auditor.

 

The website shows the same, except without Jacqueline Hodges.

 

The board is responsible to the members. At the end of 2021 there was only one member (Note 10):

 

 

This member is International Justice Mission Global (see above):

 

 

How did IJM Australia use its revenue?

 

Should you still choose to rely on the financial statements, here are the expenses:

 

 

The annual report has calculated the percentages for us:

 

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‘Programs’ includes ‘Program support costs.’ IJM Australia do not explain why these support costs are included when the other three categories of expenses also only exist to support the programs.

 

Impact

 

IJM Australia’s theory of change appears to be raise awareness of slavery and raise money →→→ send money to IJM Global (see above) →→→ IJM Global gets the impact that is consistent with its theory of change.

 

IJM Global not infrequently refers to its theory of change on the website, for instance

 

 

Other than in a report of an external evaluation, we could not find a description of the theory. And there it is very basic:

 

Commitment 8.3 of the ACFID Code of Conduct requires IJM Australia to include in its annual report ‘A description of the most significant aid and development activities undertaken during the reporting period and their impact’. The ACFID gives this example:

 

“We drilled 20 wells which improved the lives of 1000 people in the region by providing access to clean drinking water. In turn, this lowered the incidence of water borne diseases by 50% and reduced the infant mortality rate by 75%.”

 

This matches the description of impact in the link in the heading above.

 

For IJM Australia, the impact of its activities, or at least the effectiveness of its awareness raising, is not reported.

 

For IJM Global, this is the description of impact:

 

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Although these may be obviously beneficial outcomes, does it address impact? If another rescue organisation or the same size achieved larger figures, does this make it a better place for your dollar?

 

Not long ago, IJM Australia appointed a Chief Impact Officer. With presumably, because of the ‘Chief’ title, some staff. The latest annual report is little different on impact that the previous one.

 

The same Code of Conduct Commitment requires IJM Australia to include ‘information about evaluations’ in its annual report.

 

The word ‘evaluation’ does not appear in the Annual Report 2022. There are, however, several evaluations on the website.

 

External accountability

 

This is their claim:

 

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On the same page, alongside reporting its full membership of ACFID (see above), and its registration with ACNC (see above), it has this:

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This is deceptive. First, and most important, Charity Navigator says nothing about IJM Australia. It rates International Justice Mission, the parent company. Second, the parent didn’t get ‘a perfect score’:

 

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In addition, the parent is

  • not a member of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA).
  • not scoring highly with the Christ-led Ministry Watch.
  • not the holder of the CMA Standards Council’s accreditation seal.

Charity response

 

Contrary to the requirements of the ACFID Code, IJM Australia does not invite either feedback or complaints.

 

We sent them a draft of this review. They….did not respond[6].

 

 

 

 

 

  1. See here for our previous review.
  2. A picture containing graphical user interface Description automatically generated
  3. A section in the articleDonating and Volunteering: 1.Focus on the nature of the charity’s work, its beneficiaries and the impact the charity is having in the community.2.Is it clear what the charity is trying to achieve and how its activities work towards its objectives?3.Would you like to spend your money, or time if volunteering, to support these objectives?4.Is the charity being transparent about its activities?
  4. It’s less deceptive than last year, but may readers of the Annual Report 2022 can quite reasonably read this as being about IJM Australia:
  5. ‘When Helping Hurts by Brian Fikkert and Steve Corbett says this about sharing the Gospel: ‘A host of contextual issues determine the best manner and the appropriate time to present the gospel verbally, particularly in militant Muslim or Hindu settings. But without such a presentation, it is not possible for people to be personally transformed in all their relationships, which is what poverty alleviation is all about [Kindle Locations 1262-1264, Moody Publishers]. 
  6. It is against the AICFD Code of Conduct to ignore an approach such as ours.
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