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This is a review in the series ‘Members of Missions Interlink’, Missions Interlink being ‘the Australian network for global mission’ (and a means for a Member to get income tax exemption when it might not otherwise be available). ‘Pioneers of Australia’’ is one such member.
Given what Missions Interlink does, ‘Pioneers of Australia’ is probably a charity.
The charities regulator, the ACNC, in their article, Donating to Legitimate Charities, gives “some things to consider to help you make sure your donation is going where it is intended”:
- Check the charity’s name.
- Ask for identification from anyone seeking a donation.
- Be careful of online requests for donations.
- No tax deduction doesn’t mean the charity is not a legitimate one, and
- Find out more about how the charity says it uses donations.
- The names that it uses for its website (and elsewhere), ‘Pioneers Australia’ and ‘Pioneer’, are not registered business names. Nor is the name without ‘Inc.”, also used by Pioneers.
2. There is nothing to indicate that Pioneers uses either volunteer or third-party (donation) door-to-door or street collectors.
4. The ABN record says that donations to Pioneers are not tax deductible. This is contradicted by the 12 projects on this page.
They all have a heading ‘THIS IS A TAX DEDUCTIBLE OARF PROJECT’. But there is no explanation of ‘OARF’ on that page – on anywhere on the site. And it is not mentioned in the Financial Report 2019. What’s going on?
From our last review we know that Pioneers controls another four charities:
- Pioneer Ministries Foundation (the Foundation). Seven of the eight Pioneer directors are also the directors of this charity.
- Action Partners Inc.
- Asia Pacific Christian Mission (PNG) Inc, and
- South Pacific Partners Inc.
The Foundation operates an ‘OARF’ fund, APCM Overseas Aid and Relief Fund, so it is likely that the 12 projects belong to it.
5. The use of your donations
As context, here’s what Pioneers says, on the ACNC Register, they do:
The audited account of how a charity uses donations is the Financial Report on the ACNC Register.
Directors/committee members have a choice between two kinds of reports, special purpose or general purpose. The requirements of the former are less onerous than the latter.
The Pioneers’ auditor, Matthew Hung, CA, is a partner in the firm rdl.accountants. This is what his professional body, Chartered Accountants Australia & New Zealand, has to say about the choice between the two types of reports:
With control of a charity, the Foundation, that collected $8.80 million in donations for missionaries, had operations all over Australia and 20 full-time equivalent employees, it is hard to see how a special purpose report is the right choice. But that is the choice that the committee members of Pioneers made.
And the auditor, a Chartered Accountant, agreed with them.
One of the implications of their choice is that you can ring Pioneers’ office and request that they prepare financial statements that answer the question or questions you have about the charity. I strongly doubt that they will agree. And if they don’t then the accounts presented by the committee members are not for you. In fact, they say (in the Notes to the Financial Statements) that you don’t exist:
Preparing special purpose reports means that charities do not need either to consolidate (produce a combined picture if they control over entities), and or disclose related parties and transactions with related parties. This explains the absence of any information about the controlled charities in Pioneers’ Financial Report 2019.
So, you are not be getting either the full picture of the resources under the control of the Pioneers board, or a picture that matches the face that Pioneers presents to website visitors.
The use of your donations
If you are still prepared to consider a donation to Pioneers, here is how the donations were used:
From the Statement of Cash Flows (with last year in the second column):
No further information is given on this figure. So, we don’t have enough information to understand where the cash went.
Resources consumed (i.e. accrual)
This, from the Statement of Profit or Loss and Other Comprehensive Income, is how the activities translated into expenses (with last year’s figures in the second column):
There is no explanation of these items.
- The whole charity is a ‘ministry’, so what are ‘Ministry expenses’?
- What is the ‘International contribution’?
Other issues with the Financial Report
- Where are the missionaries in the accounts?
- Why, if there are missionaries, are there no overseas countries shown on the Register under ‘Where the charity operates’?
- How can an organisation with 20 employees operate without any property, plant or equipment?
- Over 95% of the revenue came from the unexplained ‘Related party grants’.
- Over 94% of the ‘Trade and Other Receivables’ is the unexplained ‘Related party receivable’.
Here are the directors who approved the Financial Report 2019:
Judith Anne Simcoe-Fitzmaurice
Ian James Fryer (Is it this one?)
Timothy Malcolm Macready (Is it this one?)
Timothy Aston Siberman
James Stuart Gow
Graham John Poole
The ACNC Register shows that, with the addition of Dannalee Grills, these are also the current directors.
Nothing systematic found.
Both Members and Associates have to accept a set of standards, the introduction to which includes this statement:
We sent Pioneers a draft of this review on 7 April 2020. At the time of publication, three weeks later, they had not responded.
A section in the article, Donating and Volunteering:
- Focus on the nature of the charity’s work, its beneficiaries and the impact the charity is having in the community.
- Is it clear what the charity is trying to achieve and how its activities work towards its objectives?
- Would you like to spend your money, or time if volunteering, to support these objectives?
- Is the charity being transparent about its activities?
The ACNC implies, therefore, that it is a ‘legitimate’ charity. But this is not correct – as the ACNC itself points out, registration is voluntary. ↑
Enhancing Not-for-Profit Annual and Financial Reporting, March 2013, accessed from their website March 2020. ↑
The accounting profession says that you are therefore ‘potentially interested in the information provided in general purpose financial reports’. [From Objective of General Purpose Financial Reporting (SAC2), www.aasb.gov.au]. ↑