Registration Refused for Victorian Fundraiser
30 January 2006 at 12:01 pm
Consumer Affairs Victoria has refused an application by a Melbourne emergency relief charity –the Victorian Emergency Relief Fund Inc – to renew its registration to fundraise in Victoria.
The Victorian Emergency Relief Fund Inc has not been permitted to fundraise in Victoria since 5 January 2006. It was set up in 2002 to raise money for bushfire and drought assistance by a councillor in Melbourne’s northern suburbs and a former Mayor, Cr. Dale Peters.
Victoria’s Minister for Consumer Affairs, Marsha Thomson says numerous complaints have been received about the fundraising activities of the VERF.
Complaints include the failure to provide receipts and the public’s inability to contact the organisation’s nominated public contact person.
The Minister says that investigations by CAV have revealed only a small percentage of gross appeal proceeds have been distributed to the nominated appeal beneficiaries.
The Director of Consumer Affairs is also reported to have concerns in relation to the fundraiser adhering to the obligations imposed on fundraisers and incorporated associations within Victoria.
The CAV says that its investigation into the relief organisation found that between December 2004 and December 2005 the charity raised $98,500 but only $19,550 went to the nominated beneficiaries.
A spokesperson for the department says the organisation has informed the Department that a further $15,000 will be distributed by the end of February.
Cr. Peter’s is reported in the Melbourne Age newspaper as vowing to fight the decision in the courts and believes he is a victim of party politics. He has accused CAV of manipulating VERF’s income and expense figures and said he has been targeted for refusing to tow the party line.
The Sunday Age newspaper reported in May last year that between December 2002 and December 2003, the charity’s total income was $252,404 and the amount paid to beneficiaries was $44,975, or about 18 per cent.
The fund was referred to Consumer Affairs Victoria after a rural small business complained to its local Member of Parliament that it could not contact the fund to apply for assistance.
There are 600 Victorian charities registered with CAV. Some 37 of those charities have conditions imposed on their fundraising activities including having to tell donors or potential donors the percentage of the funds raised that go directly to the cause.
Any person or organisation conducting fundraising activities in Victoria must first be registered by the Director of Consumer Affairs Victoria in accordance with the Fundraising Appeals Act 1998.
Penalties for breaches of the Act include a fine in excess of $24,000 for a corporation and $12,000 or 12 months imprisonment or both for an individual. No decision has been made yet on whether any penalty should be imposed on the Victorian Emergency Relief Fund Inc.
The Director of Consumer Affairs is also investigating the fundraising activities of the Children’s Cancer Institute Australia after it was claimed that just 8% of the proceeds of the much publicised Cherie Blair dinner were directed into its charity work.
In October the Institute provided information to the Director to show cause why it should not be deregistered under Victorian Consumer Affairs laws.
The fundraising event, at which Mrs Blair was the key speaker, raised more than $190,000 but it is claimed that only $16,000 went to charity.
It’s alleged the rest was spent on staging the dinner – including paying the British PM’s wife.
The online list of registered fundraisers can be found at www.consumer.vic.gov.au.