Sunday, 23 March 2008

Mystery shopping

What do you make of this? On 5th February 2008 I contacted eight large international development charities, all of whom are signatory to the International NGO Accountability Charter.

I asked each of them to publish a detailed breakdown of their expenditure for the last tax year. For each project funded within 2006-07 I wanted to know a) the name of the project b) the location of the project c) a list of funders for the project and d) the total expenditure on the project in the tax year.

None of the organisations has been able to produce me with this list. None were even able to give me just the names of the projects they funded over that year.

Their excuses were as follows:
  • ActionAid - "we try to balance the need for transparency with what we think readers will find digestible, useful and informative"
  • British Red Cross - "administrative processes [must] remain cost-effective, thus maximising the money available for our front line services."
  • CAFOD - no reply
  • CARE International UK - no reply
  • Christian Aid - just a link to the annual report
  • Oxfam - see this post and this post
  • Plan International - no reply
  • Save the Children - "this is a considerable amount of information for us to prepare and will use valuable resources".
  • Tearfund - a link to total grants made to top 50 partner organisations.
This is simply unacceptable. Producing a list of funded projects annually certainly is time-consuming, especially when financial data is included as well. But charities which take a large proportion of their income from the public should consider themselves to be under a moral duty to be transparent. Publishing a list of funded activities would obviously improve aid co-ordination as well.

No doubt these thoughts were in the chief executives' minds when they signed the International NGO Accountability Charter. This states that "By signing this Charter we seek to promote further the values of transparency and accountability that we stand for, and commit our INGO to respecting its provisions." The Charter goes on to say: "We are committed to openness, transparency and honesty about our structures, mission, policies and activities. We will communicate actively to stakeholders about ourselves, and make information publicly available."

I call on these organisations to meet their commitments.

1 comment:

matslats said...