In CEO and founder K.P. Yohannan’s recent “exclusive personal response” to the fraud lawsuit settlement involving Gospel for Asia, Yohannan traces GFA’s problems to a “confidential letter from a financial standards association we were part of, and of which we were a charter member.” That letter was from the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability and outlined 17 potential violations of ECFA financial standards. In October 2015, ECFA evicted GFA from membership. To help donors understand the nature of the concerns ECFA had about GFA, I am posting one of the concerns each day. You can read all of the posts by clicking this link.
From that letter, here is the second compliance issue:
2. Excessive cash balances held in partner field accounts. Allegations were made that GFA had upwards of $150 million in partner field accounts, far more than necessary to provide appropriate operating reserves. During our visit on June 3, ECFA was informed that GFA field partner cash reserves were approximately $7 million. After ECFA requested detailed documentation of cash balances held by foreign field offices, on June 29, we discovered that GFA’s field partners had $259,437,098 on hand at March 31, 2014 and approximately $186 million in June 2015.
ECFA staff questioned the appropriateness of the high levels of cash being held in partner field accounts. We were told that GFA partners felt it was important to maintain the high balances in case the Indian government decided to block funds being transferred into the country.
The source of the balances was primarily from donor-restricted gifts to GFA, often raised in response to gift solicitations that communicated urgent field needs (see #4 below). ECFA staff expressed concern that the high reserves may not comply with ECFA Standards 4 and 7.1. Subsequent to our conversation on this matter on July 27, GFA provided ECFA with a plan to reduce partner field account reserves to $72 Million, and then amended the plan on August 27 to reduce reserves down to $11 Million. Again, GFA staff disclaimed that GFA exercises any control over field partners (see #10 below).
In our meeting on July 1, ECFA staff asked you what the GFA board would think if they knew of the high balances in partner field accounts. You indicated that neither the board nor you were aware of the magnitude of the balances. You responded, “They would be as surprised as I am.” Subsequently, the GFA board was notified, during their July 13 board meeting, of the balances held by field partners.
In the Spring of 2014, GFA had a quarter of a billion dollars in accounts from donors. At the same time, GFA representatives, including K.P. Yohannan, begged donors for money, the organization was sitting on incredible wealth. In May 2015, I publicly asked why GFA was sitting on $158-million. At that time, GFA leaders told the staff that only $7-million was available. As noted in yesterday’s post, much of that money was sitting in accounts earning interest and not helping widows and orphans.
In 2017, the government of India did block GFA from receiving foreign funds. However, several NGOs in India are still getting money from GFA in the U.S. although it is not clear where that money is being used.
Note that this point has nothing to do with GFA’s accounting firm or practices.
Next: 3. Delay in sending funds to the field.