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Do local charities take the donors for a ride.

Muscat: Donors now ask whe-ther local charities put all the money into good use, or some cash ends up to finance lavish lifestyles of the individuals who run it.

The Ministry of Social Development regulates charities in the country and some even receive annual government funding to pay up for their administration's fees. However, thanks to generous sponsorships of individuals and large corporate houses, these charities scoop many thousand rials a year.

"On top of that, kind gestures of the companies that do not provide cash but facilities like furniture, computers and technical services free of charge make these charities well provided for. The question is how well provided are they and how much is going to the intended recipients or expenses from the total money they receive " asked contracting company owner Khalid Al Ansari, one of the donors of several charity organisations in the Sultanate, while talking to Times of Oman.

College lecturer Sami Al Hamidi, a volunteer of three charity companies said that most of the charities refuse to let outsiders take a look at their financial statements.

Transparency is key

"Transparency is a key issue. Donors have the right to have access to the charities' financial statements. If the charities have nothing to hide, they wouldn't keep the balance sheets locked up in their drawers," Al Hamidi explained.

The government should insist that all licenced charities must appoint reputed auditors and devise a system that will accurately check if the money goes to the people who are supposed to benefit.

Seeking answers

"You can't just license charities and leave them loose to do whatever they want. We must learn about scams that happen in other countries. The question is simple: Is the Ministry of Social Development confident that these charities are honest and all the money goes to the poor, sick and disabled We need answers now," Fatma Al Harrasy, one of the donors, told Times of Oman.

Financial statements

Other donors say that big companies like bank muscat, Omantel, Nawras and PDO, that give away generous cash every year, must insist on financial statements from the charitable organisations they donate money to.

"They would not want to be taken for a ride. They should not also get carried away by emotions. The reputations of these donating companies are at stake and the last thing they need is fuelling a scam. The ministry must represent all donors by insisting on checking the accounts," Al Ansari pointed out. Others say the government must set up a 'charity watchdog' to make sure that charitable organisations are regulated according to the laws.

"If you have CMA (Capital Market Authority) regulating the securities market and insurance, then we can have a watchdog to make sure charities do not take us to the cleaners on the wave of emotions," Fatma concluded.

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Publication:Times of Oman (Muscat, Oman)
Geographic Code:7OMAN
Date:Oct 4, 2012
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