Social Crusader and Metropolitan K.P. Yohannan Waxes Eloquent about Charity in India

K.P. Yohannan, source: Youtube
K.P. Yohannan, source: Youtube

Yesterday, K.P. Yohannan, self-styled social crusader and Metropolitan of Believers’ Church, published an article in the Indian online publication Bureaucracy Today on charity finances. Next issue, BT should invite Bernie Madoff to pen an article on business ethics.
 
Some highlights:

However, checks and balances in the NGO space, like in any other system are an integral part of this support mechanism.  Without effective and robust assessment machinery, it will become very difficult to sustain the credibility and utility of NGOs.
In fact, it would be fair to say that scrutiny and regulation of organizations in NGO space is far more critical than that of the private sector. This is because humanitarian organizations compliment and supplement the efforts of the state in a country of the size and diversity like ours. So whereas the government is at the forefront of inclusive growth for all sections of the society, civil society participation becomes imperative to achieve the expected pace of reform. And therefore it is sacrosanct that the credibility of these civil society participants is maintained with full caution in public eye.

This from the leader of an organization who was kicked out of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability in October 2015 and sanctioned by the Office of Personnel Management in January of 2016. GFA has not been reinstated to either organization. On the point of credibility in the public eye, GFA has not released an audited financial statement for the past two fiscal years.
Another quote:

There are a host of reasons why the narrative in India has changed to NGO versus state. Whereas some of the NGOs have been accused of funding anti-national activities, others have been accused of financial impropriety. These are grave charges and it is but natural that the relevant authorities have taken timely action to intervene.

This statement comes from the leader of the organization being sued for fraud in the U.S.
As GFA’s lawyer said, I am a blogger that regularly blogs and will continue to remind donors about the “grave charges” until the “relevant authorities” intervene.

Indian Government Cracks Down on NGOs; Gospel for Asia India Changes Name to Ayana Charitable Trust

Source TT Architects website
GFA HQ – Source TT Architects website

Earlier this week, the Indian press reported that 20,000 NGOs had been cancelled by Prime Minister Modi’s crusade against corruption. According to those reports, only 13,000 NGOs remain as approved by the government.
It is unclear if any of the NGOs connected to mission giant Gospel for Asia has been caught up in the crack down. The government’s Home Ministry website provides lists of about 12,000 NGOs which are not now approved and none of the GFA organizations are listed. However, given the reports of 20,000 cancelled, presumably more will be announced in the days ahead.
In looking for information about the drastic measures, I learned that Gospel for Asia in India is now called Ayana Charitable Trust (see this blog post at India Happenings). To my knowledge, this name change was not disclosed to donors outside of India. The Gospel for Asia – India website is not functional and hasn’t been for months. Apparently, donations from America, Canada and around the world are being sent to Believers’ Church as well as a handful of NGOs in India, all affiliated with Believers’ Church.
Apparently, Gospel for Asia isn’t operating as GFA in India.
Recent government filings indicate no foreign contributions to Ayana Charitable Trust. For instance, look at this report filed in the last quarter of FY 2015-2016.
Ayana Trust last qtr 2015-2016
However, in April 2016 the Deccan Chronicle reported robust contributions for 2014-2015 to Ayana Charitable Trust, Believers’ Church, Love India Ministry and Last Hour Ministry, all affiliated with Believers’ Church. This reflects donations from GFA in Wills Point, TX to these NGOs. The Chronicle reported the donations to Ayana and not the old name of Gospel for Asia. However, as noted above, Ayana reported no contributions in the last quarter of FY 2015-2016.
It is unclear why GFA has changed the name in India. Creating multiple NGOs and changing their names does make it harder to track donations. Given the intense scrutiny of GFA’s activities (leading to expulsion from the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability), making it hard to track activities might be a defensive strategy.

WAY-FM: Gospel for Asia "Passed Our Internal Review"

Looking around on Christian radio network WAY-FM’s website, I saw this ad for Gospel for Asia.
GFA on WAY
First, GFA isn’t really giving very many animals to children. Most goat gifts end up in a fund which may or may not provide an actual animal to a family.
Then, I wondered if perhaps WAY-FM was unaware of GFA’s ethics and legal problems. Even K-LOVE told me at one point they no longer partner with GFA.  I wrote WAY-FM to find out.
The response led to another question which has yet to be answered.
Mike West at WAY-FM answered briefly:

All Impact Partners are internally reviewed prior to airing and GFA passed our internal review once again.

So an advertiser is an “impact partner” and GFA passed an internal review. This response led to my next, as yet unanswered, question.
What would GFA have to do in order to fail?
Apparently, an impact partner can be evicted from the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability due to multiple violations of financial integrity standards and still pass.
An impact partner can be removed from the Combined Federal Campaign by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management due to violations of federal regulations  and still pass.
An impact partner can be disgraced in an Indian court for misusing donor funds and still pass.
An impact partner can be removed from the Independent Charities of America and still pass.
An impact partner can be removed from membership in the National Religious Broadcasters and still pass.
An impact partner can fail to make available audited financial statements for 2014 and 2015 and still pass.
An impact partner can commit all those misdeeds and leave the same leadership team in place and still pass.
I would like to know what groups fail WAY-FM’s internal review. I could do a lot of blog posts on that group.
 
 

Indian Ruling Party Official: K.P. Yohannan Has No Claim to Rubber Plantation

K.P. Yohannan, source: Youtube
K.P. Yohannan, source: Youtube

Gospel for Asia founder and director K.P. Yohannan is getting opposition from the India’s Peoples Party in his bid to sell a rubber plantation that the government says he doesn’t own. Yohannan’s Believers’ Church purchased the working rubber plantation — Cheruvally Estate — from the Harrisons Malayalam Ltd company in 2005. According to the Times of India, a high ranking official in the party of Prime Minister Modi claims the church should not be repaid for the property since it was acquired illegally:

The government does not need permission from K P Yohannan to set up airport in the Cheruvally estate, BJP national executive member V Muraleedharan said.
Muraleedharan said that when the government plans to buy the 2,200 acre Cheruvally estate from the encroachers and set up the airport, it would set a wrong precedence for encroachers of government land in other areas. The opposition was against this move that would set the ground for large-scale corruption, he said.

Yohannan has said the Believers’ Church bought the land with a loan. While this may be true, he was able to do so because donors from around the world gave millions to GFA. His operations in India have consistently promoted work with children and evangelism as the focus of American donantions. However, the bulk of money from outside of India has gone to finance the creation of for-profit businesses in India (e.g., medical centers, schools). Furthermore, at least $20 million in donations was first sent to India and then secretly returned to the United States in order to fund GFA’s compound in Texas.
GFA and Yohannan were evicted from membership in the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability in October 2015. GFA was singled out as violating government regulations by the Office of Personnel Management in January 2016 and sanctioned to the greatest extent allowed by law.

#GivingTuesday: Gospel for Asia's Rubber Plantation in Jeopardy

It appears Gospel for Asia has experienced another setback. The local government wants to build an airport on part of the rubber plantation — Cheruvally Estate — owned by GFA.

“There are many environmental issues at Laha. Based on a study , Cheruvalli estate was found suitable. I had talked to Archbishop KP Yohannan who owns the Cheruvalli estate two months ago and he had expressed his willingness to give land for the airport. I wrote to Vijayan and he acted quickly ,” he said, adding that NRKs were ready to invest if the airport follows a PPP model. Around Rs 3,000 crore will be required to build the airport.
The estate, which was being held by Gospel for Asia, was part of 5,200 acres that was taken over by the special officer along with the land held by Travancore Rubber and Tea Company Ltd and Riya Resorts and Properties Pvt Ltd. Cheruvalli estate is one among the estates that were sold by Harrisons Malayalam Ltd in 2005. The special officer – who was appointed for resuming government land from HML – had inspected the estate on January 15, 2015 and found that the sale deed of the Cheruvalli estate, measuring 2,263 acres, did not contain any survey number included in original document 16001923 held by HML.
Gospel for Asia had approached the high court claiming that the special office had no powers to issue the notice. After their plea was turned down by the single bench that asked the group to first make their claims before the special officer, the group then appealed against it in the division bench.

Last month, KSEB had written to the special officer seeking permission to erect a 110kV line through the property for im proving the power facility to Sabarimala which subsequently was placed before the high court.The court, in its order, gave permission to KSEB to erect the power line through the estate, without providing any compensation to Gospel for Asia.

GFA paid millions of donor money not given for the purchase of a rubber plantation to buy Cheruvally Estate. Now, that investment is being taken by the government with the claim being that GFA was not a legal buyer in the first place.
In October 2015, GFA was evicted from membership in the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability due to multiple violations of financial standards. GFA founder and director K.P. Yohannan has spent much of his time in India since then due to concerns about investigations by various federal agencies.
Today is #GivingTuesday which provides a focus on giving to non-profits. With Christmas and end of the year tax giving, charities bring in a substantial portion of their funds during December.
#GivingTuesday – My advice is to find local charities making a difference and give there.
#GivingTuesday – Advice for making larger donations.

Gospel for Asia Fails K.P. Yohannan's Own Stewardship Test

Yesterday, I noted how K.P. Yohannan criticized missionary hospitals and schools in his first book but now funds them in India with millions of donor dollars.
Today, at the suggestion of a reader, I take a look at similar criticism in his third book, originally titled Why the World Waits.
On pages 245-246 Yohannan’s 2004 edition re-titled Come, Let’s Reach the WorldYohannan poses some questions prospective donors should ask about mission organizations. While I don’t know the answers to all of them as applied to GFA, the answers I do know suggest Yohannan’s GFA fails his own test.
From the book:

Ask questions relating to financial and administrative standards.
1. Is an annual audit done by a certified accountant?

Until I reported on errors in the 2013 audit, GFA published an audit available by request. According to GFA sources, the most recent audit for 2014 has been completed but GFA won’t release it.

2. Is the audit made available to the organization’s constituency?

Not currently. For many years, GFA refused to post their audit citing security concerns. However, until recently, one could request a copy by mail. Now, GFA will not release an audit of the U.S. affiliate. To my knowledge, there is no public audit of the Indian organizations (i.e., GFA-India, Believers Church).

3. Is the ratio of spending for field ministry considerably greater than for administration? (It should be at least 80 percent for actual ministry.)

The actual ratio is a matter of debate. For many years, GFA claimed to send 100% of donated funds to the field but an analysis by Jason Watkins casts doubt on that claim. There is ample reason to suspect that many donations have gone to pay for hospital construction as well as other projects not designated by donors.

4. Are all documents, assets and the like in the name of the organization (not an individual leader)?

No, Believers’ Church* policy requires that property and assets be listed under the name of K.P. Yohannan as Metropolitian bishop along with the church.

5. What are the major items of expense? (If funds go primarily for properties, hospitals and schools rather than for actual field evangelism, be extremely cautious to check them out.)

As I have documented, GFA has amassed an empire of for profit schools and hospitals. They own a rubber plantation, a finance company, rental properties, and sponsor a professional soccer team. An Indian tax court found that GFA did not spend “substantial” funds as donors intended. According to Watkins financial review, only a tiny portion of the donations went to evangelistic activities.

6. Is the missionary or group receiving any financial assistance from other sources?

GFA receives funds primarily from donors in the U.S., Canada and the UK.

7. Is there a written agreement to declare all sources of income for any given project?

In the past, GFA promised to spend funds in accord with donor intent. After losing membership in the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, GFA changed their promise to make it more explicit that the organization may use donated funds for purposes other than donors intend.

8. Is the group registered with the government as a charitable or nonprofit organization?

Yes.

9. Are finances and financial records handled only by the leader and his relatives? (If this is the case, then you have good enough reason not to support him.)

According the Believers’ Church constitution, funds cannot be spent without the oversight of the Metropolitan Bishiop (Yohannan). He has relatives on his boards (his wife, son, daughter, son-in-law and niece are on various boards with oversight over the funds).

10. Are the accounts jointly operated (that is, at least two people responsible for handling the funds)?

As noted above, Yohannan has the final say on how money is spent. There is a committee which exercises oversight but Yohannan has veto power over all actions of the Believers’ Church. His name is on the deed to all properties.

11. Are written and signed receipts kept for records of how money was spent for any given project or missionary?

When GFA illegally sent U.S. currency to India in student backpacks, students and staff were promised receipts. However, for the most part, these were not given to students and one staff member had to implore Yohannan and the U.S. leadership for receipts.

12. Who makes decisions that govern the activities of the mission?

Clearly, by Believers’ Church constitution, the decisions are made by K.P. Yohannan. According to former staffers, the same is true in the U.S., the board has very little role. One former board member Gayle Erwin left the board because he became convinced that Yohannan was withholding information from the board. Furthermore, Yohannan re-wrote a report Erwin penned because Yohannan perceived that the report portrayed GFA in a negative light.
More recently, Yohannan removed two board members from the board of GFA Canada after those board members began asking questions about GFA’s financial dealings.  The removal was contrary to the organization’s by-laws.
By his own standards, Yohannan’s current GFA fails badly and isn’t a good candidate for donations.
According to veteran missionary Billy Bray, the book should have listed him as first author since he wrote much of it. Read more about the authorship of Yohannan’s first three books here.
 
*Believers’ Church is the central organization in India. GFA in the U.S. sends donated funds to Believers’ Church to use them in India via GFA-India and other government registered charity entities.

K-LOVE's Pledge Drive: Money Behind the Music

The Christian radio empire K-LOVE (complete list of stations) is in the middle of their Spring Pledge Drive. To be blunt, the constant solicitations are annoying.
After hearing a claim recently that K-LOVE’s CEO Mike Novak’s salary is over half a million dollars, I decided to do some exploration of K-LOVE’s finances. K-LOVE is one of two radio enterprises run by Educational Media Foundation (Air One is the other). Because EMF is a non-profit, their finances are available via their 990 form. The organization is quite large and took in just over $152-million during 2014.
Concerning the salary claim, it is true that CEO Mike Novak got a hefty sum of $531,256 in 2014. Numerous employees, including one of the DJs got over $200k in compensation. K-LOVE pushes an “easy” giving level of $40/month on the air and their website. It takes 1107 people making that monthly pledge just to pay Novak’s salary. By comparison, the executive director of Doctors Without Borders, Sophie Delaunay, got just over $160k for running an organization that took in twice what K-LOVE received in donations.
K-LOVE also spent $267,463 on “pledge drive coaching.” The return on investment was phenomenal in 2014 in that they raised over $32-million attributed to the effort.
KLOVE Coaching
As annoying as the gimmickry is, it is apparently quite successful.
Are Board Members Paid?
In reviewing K-LOVE’s claims about their finances, I found one claim to be technically true but misleading. On their website, K-LOVE says:
KLOVE Finances
K-LOVE claims that the Board of Directors at large serve without compensation. While it is true that the 2014 990 form doesn’t report any income paid to non-staff board members, CEO Mike Novak is one of the board of directors and is well compensated. However, readers wouldn’t know that by reading the website. The website description makes it seems as though none of the board members get paid. When one looks at the list of board members on K-LOVE’s website, at large members are not identified.

K-love leadership
The 2014 990 identifies CEO Novak as a salaried board member:
KLOVE Board 990
Does K-LOVE Need Your Money?
K-LOVE’s net revenue over expenses for 2014 was over $64-million. At $40/month, that means 133,761 donors could have given their money elsewhere and K-LOVE would have covered operational expenses. While it clearly takes lots of money to run a high quality media operation, it may come as a surprise to donors who sacrificially give $40/month that K-LOVE is doing quite well financially.
I am not saying that K-LOVE is doing anything wrong (although I think they could make it more clear that staff board members are handsomely paid). My intent is simply to provide potential donors with information that is not provided by K-LOVE. It may be that your local church or food pantry needs that money more than this mega-station.

Gospel for Asia Denies RICO Allegations, Moves to Dismiss Suit, and Asks Court to Compel Arbitration

In court filings Monday, Gospel for Asia denied all allegations of wrong doing, asked the court to compel the plaintiffs Matthew and Jennifer Dickson to enter into arbitration to settle their dispute and/or to dismiss the suit.
In February, Matthew and Jennifer Dickson brought sued GFA alleging fraud and mismanagement on behalf of themselves and the class of GFA donors. On Monday, GFA’s lawyers responded with denials, a motion to dismiss the suit and a demand that the Dicksons enter arbitration. The GFA legal response included signed agreements by the Dicksons while they were GFA employees which included a clause stating they wouldn’t sue over disputes but rather enter arbitration.
GFA’s response concludes:

Defendants [GFA leaders] pray that arbitration be ordered, or, alternatively, that judgment be entered that Plaintiffs take nothing by this suit against any of the Defendants, that class certification be denied, that all relief prayed for by Plaintiffs in this action be denied, and that Defendants be granted such other and further relief, at law and in equity, to which they may be justly entitled. DATED: April 15, 2016.

GFA’s motion to compel arbitration
GFA’s motion to dismiss the suit
GFA’s brief supporting motion to dismiss
GFA’s response to the complaint
The original complaint Dicksons v. Gospel for Asia
 

Gospel for Asia Claims Allegations Are False But Then Claims Changes Are Coming; Still Keeping the Audit Secret

If Gospel for Asia wants to show change, then the board of directors should release the most recent audit…
In early March, Gospel for Asia’s board of directors (we still don’t know who they are) posted a statement to donors about how they are responding to GFA’s loss of ECFA accreditation and the resulting questions about their financial integrity.
In it, I find some good signs, if indeed the statements are accurate. GFA claims to have instituted new procedures to insure money is spent where it should be spent. However, on the down side, GFA claims that the allegations which led to the need for these changes are false. Shorter GFA: We never did anything wrong and we won’t do it again.
You can read the statement in full at the GFA website. Below, I intersperse my reactions throughout the statement.

Strengthening Our Commitment to You

Wills Point, Texas – March 10, 2016: A positive effect of a malicious internet attack—and a subsequent series of false accusations—against Gospel for Asia has been the overall review and fine tuning of our administrative and financial processes in order to insure we are above reproach.

My carefully documented posts since April 2015 have been vigorous but not malicious. I have all along the way asked for comment and information from Gospel for Asia. GFA stopped responding to me in May of last year. At one point, a rumor was spread that I was offered a chance by GFA leaders to go to Texas and see the operation. That was false but I indicated that I would be willing to do that. There has been no effort to set the record straight with me or any other Christian media source. Christianity Today, World, Christian Today, etc. have all tried but gotten no answers of substance.
GFA board of directors, I ask you, what allegations are false? You keep saying that publicly and privately but you don’t provide evidence. The ECFA report documents numerous problems, many of which came from this blog. If you are going to make an allegation like that, you should be prepared to back it up. I have provided documentation via publicly available documents, internal budgets, staff meeting disclosures, etc. On the other hand, you have answered with denials without evidence.
The fact that you continue to spin what is obvious to everyone is not a good sign that you are actually following through with all of the “fine tuning” you claim. If you can spin this, then there is no assurance that you are doing what you say you are doing. For years, GFA promised to be following ECFA guidelines. You were not doing that. For years, GFA promised to follow the guidelines of the Office of Personnel Management. You did not comply which resulted in the OPM evicting you from the Combined Federal Campaign. Did you forget about that? Donors are not going to forget. If you really want to fine tune, then stop blaming the messenger for false allegations when it is obvious that many of the allegations have already had consequences in the real world.

On February 12, the board of Gospel for Asia issued a statement regarding our relationship with ECFA. Over Gospel for Asia’s thirty-six-year history with ECFA, our ministry underwent a number of reviews, all of which we passed, but our most recent review (which ECFA initiated as a direct result of false accusations originating on the internet) cited several recommended areas of improvement. Gospel for Asia contested ECFA’s conclusions, but simultaneously values our relationship with ECFA, especially as a founding member of the organization.

Seems pretty clear in this statement that it is fine with you to accuse media of making false allegations but then to ingratiate yourself with ECFA. When I make a claim, you call it a “false allegation.” When ECFA includes the same information in their review and validates my work, you change your tune.
Have you forgotten about your former board member colleague, Gayle Erwin? Erwin was a part of the GFA board for 30 years. He pulled back the curtain and validated media reports. In fact, he provided even more detail about how the board was misled. Are his allegations false? If so, please explain.

Compliance with ECFA standards are a benefit—but not a requirement—for a charity to operate ethically and legally. Even so, Gospel for Asia is working to comply with recommendations made by ECFA.
Today, Gospel for Asia, is pleased to announce we as a ministry have implemented—or are well on our way to implementing—each of these recommendations for improvement.
Some of the changes being implemented include the following:

  1. While Gospel for Asia has always undergone an annual and independent financial audit from a reputable firm, the ministry has now contracted a new auditing firm that ECFA specifically recommended. This firm is well equipped to assist Gospel for Asia in navigating the increasingly complex demands presented by the varying international environments within which we operate.
  2. The aforementioned audit—which is underway—has identified additional safeguards that can be applied to GFA’s accounting and reporting processes. Till now, Gospel for Asia has fully implemented approximately forty percent of these recommendations, and is in the process of implementing all of the recommendations.
  3. In order to assess our overall operations and management, we have engaged a national non-profit expert to conduct an additional management review and in turn recommend changes to policies, procedures and practices throughout the entire organization.
  4. With the help of the auditors and experts referenced above, we have created—and are in the process of implementing—an improved agreement with our field partners. This will allow GFA to more efficiently deploy resources and better communicate regarding the use of all resources.
  5. We are in the process of adding more staff to key administrative and financial divisions in order to strengthen our overall operations.

We believe these changes will strengthen our work and insure that all of it is accomplished according to standards that are above reproach.
Gospel for Asia remains undaunted in its mission to bring the love of Christ to those who have yet to hear his name. We believe the best is yet to come and that now, more than ever before, is the time to share the love and message of Christ among the world’s least reached. These changes will allow us to be even more effective.

Statement from Gospel for Asia’s Board of Directors on Recent Developments

If you really are doing these things, then show some good faith to the public by releasing the now completed audit. If you want to demonstrate that you have turned over a new leaf, then release the audit. I know you have been asked for it and have denied the request. It is business as usual at GFA. You have it but you won’t release it.

GFA board members, you need to realize that donors don’t have to support GFA. There are other organizations which are more transparent and more focused. You must earn the trust of donors again. This spin job isn’t a good start. Just saying you are going to do things doesn’t cut it anymore. You must do something to demonstrate you have learned something.

For starters, release the most recent audit.

Gospel for Asia Has Changed Some Promises To Admit They Can Spend Donations As They Want

In a mailing to donors asking for money for new church construction in India, Gospel for Asia has changed their promise about how funds are used.
On their website, GFA still promises that 100% of donations go to the “field” with nothing taken out for administrative costs.
GFA 100 percent 2016
However, in this new mailing, GFA tells donors:
GFA build a church 2016
I wonder how long the 100% promise will remain on the website. As of right now, the messages are contradictory. Website donors are still being misled. This new appeal appears to be how GFA has done business in the past. According to the ECFA, GFA has used donor money for purposes other than intended. This new mailing asks for money for churches (see the letter and enclosures), but the disclaimer tells the donor that the money may not go to build a church.
Given the documentation that GFA is using money in India to purchase land, schools, and medical centers for income production, donors should be aware that the money you hope goes to build a church may build a business instead.