Charities examined by national regulator
TWO of Australia’s leading drought-relief charities are being examined by the national regulator seeking assurances the millions of dollars in donations of goods and funding makes it to needy farmers.
The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission said in a press release this week it had visited the offices of the Rural Aid organisation – which runs the popular Buy a Bale scheme – and Aussie Helpers following concerns raised about their operations.
Of the $50 million donated this year to help farmers in NSW and western Queensland cope with the severe drought, more than $20 million has been donated directly to the Buy a Bale charity run by Charles and Tracy Alder from their Brisbane base.
Brian Egan’s Charleville based Aussie Helpers organisation, which has donated food, hampers, hay, cash and prepaid Visa spending cards to more than 11,000 farmers across NSW and Queensland for the past 17 years, has received nearly $3 million of donations in the past two months.
Mr Egan said he had nothing to hide.
Both organisations said 90 per cent of all donations went directly to help drought-affected farming families struggling to feed livestock and make ends meet.
“This is malicious and hurtful; anyone can come and have a look at our finances and have us charged if they think we have done anything illegal,” Mr Egan said, claiming he had partially initiated the ACNC investigation to clear Aussie Helpers’ name.
“All these ludicrous accusations are being made on social media – it’s out of control; (my wife) Nerida and I have given up so much of our lives to help people and never received one dollar for our efforts. The more time we spend dealing with this is time we’re not helping farmers.”
Rural Aid posted on its Facebook page during the week: “We welcome any questions from the ACNC about our operations, and look forward to any further conversations with the ACNC.”
ACNC commissioner Gary Johns said his inquiry into the two organisations focused on making sure transparent and accountable practices and procedures were in place and that cash donations and goods received were getting to farmers in need.
“Australians have been incredibly generous and donated huge amounts of money and goods to help those affected by the drought,” he said.
“We have contacted two charities who are coordinating drought-relief efforts to ensure donated goods and funds are being managed appropriately.
“ACNC staff have visited the operations of the charities. We are working with them to understand their work and confirm they have procedures and practices in place to manage the large number of donations they have received. Our inquiries are still ongoing; however, both charities have fully cooperated.”
The examination comes a fortnight after Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said he had passed on documents linked to drought donations and specific major charities to “relevant authorities” to investigate.
Mr Littleproud recommended donations were best given to the Country Women’s Association, Lions and Rotary groups helping out with drought-relief efforts.
❝ This is malicious and hurtful. — Brian Egan