Claimants Rummage through Samaritan’s Purse

Published On  Sep 11,  2011

Charities board continues to settle, transfer property of NGOs with revoked licences

Close to 53 individuals have claimed, last week, that they have shares in properties belonging to Samaritan Purse, found in Addis Abeba, which the board of Charities and Civil Societies Agency (CCSA) had decided to confiscate.

The properties were confiscated in December 2010, after the CCSA revoked its licence in August 2010 for hiring 14 foreign nationals without the proper work and residence permits over a three year period. The NGO was also found guilty of evading tax in the amount of seven million Birr by Ethiopian Revenues and Customs Authority (ERCA).

The agency had appointed a liquidator to assess the value of all assets owned by Samaritan Purse and settle debts and liabilities it owes. Properties of the NGO, established in 1979 for victims of war, poverty and famine, which are located in branch offices across the country, have not yet been fully assessed and valuated, but those located in Addis Abeba have been finalised.

The three member liquidation committee had called for those who claim to have a stake or share in the properties to come forth, two weeks ago. Many of those who came forward, in the 10 days given for debtors to come forth, were former employees of the organisation, according to Assefa Tesfaye, public relations for CCSA.

However, not all of those who have claims will get what they ask for.

The agency will only pay those who come up with evidence which verify their claims,” Assefa told Fortune. “There are claims which have no evidence.”

After the licence was revoked, the board had granted Samaritan Purse access to its bank account, which had been blocked by the agency, to pay salaries of its employees for August and September 2011.

Once all the debtors have been paid and liabilities are settled, the remaining properties will be transferred to a charity or civil society organisation with similar vision and purpose by the agency, according to the Charities and Civil Societies Proclamation.

The proclamation, passed in 2009, had received a lot of criticism from human rights organisations when it was passed. It had reclassified Charities and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) into local and international based on the amount of funds and resources they get. Those charities and CSOs, which receive more than 10pc of their funds from international sources, were classified as international while those with funds less than 10pc were classified as local. It had also further outlined areas and sectors, where those classified as international were not allowed to operate.

In the just ended fiscal year, the agency which had registered 407 organisations under the new classification, had revoked the licences of four international and one local charity organisations and frozen the accounts of two local NGOs.

Including Samaritan Purse, the agency had revoked the licences of Mobility without Barriers Foundation – Ethiopia (MwBF-E), International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO), Better Future for Adoption Service (BFAP), and Coalition for Action against Poverty (CAP), a local organisation.

The MwBF-E’s, an organisation established for safer and versatile assisted mobility options, licence was revoked after the agency had determined that grants from UNICEF for the purchase of wheelchairs and other materials were transferred to the organisation’s headquarters. It also accused David Winters, the company’s representative, of receiving a payment of 50,000 dollars for 1,000 hours while registered as a volunteer at the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (MoLSA).

“The organisation had 80,000 Br in debt, which the agency settled out of the assets that were confiscated,” Assefa told Fortune. “We will transfer the remaining property to an organisation in similar endeavours.”

The agency also revoked the licence and confiscated the properties of BFAP for child trafficking.

“Having found one million Birr in their account, we are in the process of settling debts the organisation owes,” Assefa told Fortune. “We will soon make an announcement for those who may have claims with the organisation to come forward soon.”

All the assets of IIRO had already been transferred to the Ethiopian Islamic Council, whereas no material properties of CAP were found and the 150,000 Br that was in its bank account was gone, according to Assefa.