This is review in the series ‘Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) Members’. ACFID ‘is the peak body for Australian non-government (sic) organisations (NGOs) involved in international development and humanitarian action.’ It requires Members to adhere to a Code of Conduct.
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.
SSV doesn’t have either name registered as a business name. Nobody has ‘Salesian Missions’ registered. But another organisation, Salesians of Don Bosco is the owner of ‘Salesian Missions Australia’. This information is matched by who owns the website of ‘Salesian Missions Australia’:
Neither Salesians of Don Bosco or Salesian of Don Bosco is as an organisation or a business name. But the ABN in the business name registration belongs to SSV. Confusing.
The ACNC Register entry for SSV reiterates this equation of ‘Salesians of Don Bosco’ (and, presumably the alternative spelling):
On the SMA (SSV) website :
This is from a document ‘Australian Salesian Mission Overseas Aid Fund (Overseas Aid Fund) Fundraising Policy’. Therefore, since ASMOAF is a sub-entity of SSV (see above), presumably applies to SSV as well.
The web address begins with a closed padlock symbol, so the website is secure [the ACNC article above].
At the bottom of the first page it says ‘Powered by GiveNow’, so you can rely on their security.
SSV (SMA’s) ABN record (via the ACNC Register) says that a tax deduction is available for a donation both to it as an organisation, and to three funds that it operates:
On the donation page, all donations go to only one destination – the Overseas Aid Fund above. Tax deductibility is not mentioned.
Neither of the other two Funds are mentioned on the website.
Question 5 The use of your donations
Context – this is what SMA does.
Towards the bottom of this page there’s a section on Salesians of Don Bosco, the entity found above. From a link to a website in the same name, we learn that SMA is the ‘Missions’ arm of that entity.
In footer we are told that ‘Salesians of Don Bosco Australia-Pacific Province’ is a registered charity. This is not true. On the ‘About’ page we are told that the official name is ‘The Society of St. Francis de Sales’. Also, not a registered charity – not even an entity with an ABN.
So, the AICD membership appears to involve no less than seven (7) names for the one entity:
Salesian Mission Australia
Salesian Society Vic Inc
Salesian of Don Bosco
Salesians of Don Bosco
Salesians of Don Bosco Australia-Pacific Province
The Society of St. Francis de Sales’
We will understand if you get confused!
Share the Gospel?
Even though they are about ‘missions’, SMA/SSV is a public benevolent institution and a potential recipient of DFAT grants. So not allowed to share the Gospel.
Where the money went
The audited account of how donations are used is the Financial Report on the ACNC Register.
Let’s turn, then, to this report for SMA/SSV.
In it the directors signed a declaration [Financial Declaration for Responsible Person (sic)] that
No, they don’t:
- It is grossly, and unashamedly, incomplete. From the Minutes of the Annual General Meeting…:
- Unashamedly, because the Report provides no explanation for these omitted figures.
- The Report includes unnecessary, unusual and potentially confusing additional documents.
- For instance, financial statements, plus an audit report, for the Overseas Aid Fund have been included even though the directors say that the figures for this Fund are included in the SMA/SSV financial statements.
Notes to the Financial Statements
- Note 1 tells us that SMA controls ‘one other entity’, ‘Salesian Society Incorporated’ (see above) But there is no policy note on consolidation, consolidation of the subsidiary is not mentioned, and the Overseas Aid Fund (see above), has been ‘consolidated’ when it is not a separate entity (and therefore not required to be consolidated).
- The directors do not explain why they chose a ‘special purpose financial report’ over general purpose.
- ‘Investments’ are not properly classified.
- ‘Land’ worth $100.8 million has not been included in the assets.
- Loan repayments of at least $3.40 million have been classified as non-current liabilities rather than current liabilities.
- Land is not shown separately to buildings.
- $1.08 million of assets are included as ‘Plant and Equipment’ without further classification.
- Deposits with a maturity of 12 months or less are included in ‘Cash and cash equivalents’ rather than the usual three months.
‘Income and Expenditure Statement’
- The Overseas Aid Fund’s revenue and expense have been included as single line items rather than included with the applicable revenues and expenses of the rest of the organisation.
- There is no Note explaining the composition of these two line items.
- A loss is described as a profit.
- A $2.35 million transfer to India is classified as ‘Other Comprehensive Expenditure’ rather than being included with all the other expenses.
- The expenses of the communities is included as a single line item, ‘Community Expenditure’ rather than being included with the applicable expenses of the rest of the organisation.
- The expense ‘Professional Charges’, 47% of the $14.42 million total expenses, has no breakup or explanation.
- The directors use a mixed classification of expenses.
‘Statement of Cash Flows’
- ‘Cash and Cash Equivalents 31/12/2021’ does not agree with balance sheet.
- What appears to be the cash spent on operations is described as ‘Cash Generated from Operations’.
- The auditor, Kevin F Jones FCA, saw nothing materially wrong with the SMA financial report.
- The auditor says his audit is on a ‘General Purpose Financial Report’ when the directors say that it is a special purpose report. The audit procedures and report are quite different for each.
- The auditor signed his report nine days before the accounts were approved by the directors.
- The auditor does not refer to statements by the name used by the client.
- If the auditor thought that they were special purpose statements, as the directors say, then the size and complexity of SSV means that his approval of this decision is highly questionable give the meaning of reporting entity, and the advice from his own professional body:
The people responsible for the reporting
Matthews, Carroll, and Ahern were three of the directors responsible for the Report last reviewed.
How did SMA/SSV use its revenue
If you are still prepared to consider a donation to SMA/SSV, and given that the only (online) giving is to the Overseas Aid Fund, here, from the unaudited ‘Income Statement’ of that Fund, is the ‘expenditure’ (with last year in the second column):
The only further information for the major item, $1.64 million (of $1.99 million) is this:
Everything SMA/SSV is doing may be being done ‘properly’, but unless the money is being used effectively (i.e., has an impact), the money would be better used elsewhere. And the same applies if the impact is less than is being achieved by another charity doing the same thing.
Commitment 8.3 of the ACFID Code of Conduct requires SSV/SMA 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.
Nothing systematic found on the website.
The same Code of Conduct Commitment requires SMS/SSV to include ‘information about evaluations’ in its annual report.
‘Evaluation’ is not mentioned in the Annual Report.
SMA welcomes feedback:
We sent SMA/SSV a draft of this review. They…..did not respond.
- See here for our previous review. ↑
- 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?
- It appears that SSV comes up because SSV has this under ‘Also known as’:But this is not Salesian Missions, but a Fund of SSV (see below). Confusing. ↑
- In footer we are told that Salesians of Don Bosco Australia-Pacific Province is a registered charity. This is not true. ↑
- ‘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]. ↑
- Enhancing Not-for-Profit Annual and Financial Reporting, March 2013, accessed from their website March 2020. ↑
- The behaviour of its people, its use of money, and how it goes about its business. ↑
- The ACNC has previously – the Fact Sheet is no longer on the site – explained impact this way: “Every charity has a mission that is associated with producing a public benefit. As this mission is pursued, the changes produced in individuals and their communities can be referred to as the charity’s ‘impact.’ If you are donating to a charity, you may wish to make sure that your donation is creating the greatest impact possible.’ There is no reason this wouldn’t still be their view. ↑
- The same issue with confusion over the name of the member applies to the Annual Report. On the cover, SMA imply that these three entities are one and the same: Salesian Missions Australia, The Australian Salesian Mission Overseas Aid Fund, and Salesians of Don Bosco. The second is a Fund of the first, and the third is not registered in Australia. ↑