ACNC Warns Public to Check Your Charity
21 September 2018 at 4:59 pm
The charities commission is encouraging the public to check the validity of an organisation before donating, following revelations a charity leader stole $750,000 from the not for profits she ran.
The Independent Commission against Corruption (ICAC) found Eman Sharobeem, a former Australian of the year finalist, “engaged in serious corrupt conduct” while running the Immigrant Women’s Health Service (IWHS) and Non-English Speaking Women’s Housing Scheme Inc (NESH).
The report revealed that over the course of six years, Sharobeem used her power to financially benefit herself and her family by transferring $443,000 from IWHS to fund personal purchases, despite “knowing she was not entitled to such reimbursements”.
The money from IWHS was used to buy a Mercedes for her husband, jewelry and her property in Fairfield, New South Wales.
“At the relevant time she was the head of an agency predominantly funded by public monies to provide important services to women and children in need, whose funds she deprived in large amounts motivated by greed to benefit herself and her family,” the report said.
It also said Sharobeem falsely represented herself as a qualified psychologist with a PhD in psychology, and treated patients referred to her.
“Sharobeem’s false pretences created significant risks to the community in that she saw vulnerable people who required psychological treatment from a qualified professional,” it said.
A spokesperson for the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission told Pro Bono News despite “rare” cases of fraudulent behaviour, their most recent research found 86 per cent of Australians trusted charities.
They advised the best way to donate was for people to do their research before giving to charities to check if they were viable or not.
“The ACNC encourages donors to search the ACNC Charity Register to ensure that a charity is registered, transparent and accountable,” the spokesperson said.
“Donors may also wish to look for the ACNC Registered Charity Tick, which gives reassurance to the public that a charity is registered with the ACNC and required to follow the ACNC governance standards.”
Community Council Australia CEO David Crosbie told Pro Bono News people’s trust in charities was one of their “most important commodities”, and said he had witnessed the impact bad behaviour from charity leaders has had on the sector.
“In Australia, a number of charities have told me their fundraising has been directly impacted by the negative coverage of the inappropriate and probably illegal activities of the RSL leadership in NSW,” Crosbie said.
He said public trust was falling in many institutions, and charities could “ill afford” any stories of charity leaders betraying the trust of their communities, even if it was only a minority of leaders that acted up.
“One instance may be seen as relatively insignificant especially given such a tiny minority of all charities have been shown to behave badly, [but] the cumulative impact of multiple single instances can be significant.”
“Every Australian charity leader needs to accept the responsibility they have to honour and nurture the trust of our communities. Anything less will diminish our capacity to build flourishing communities.”
ICAC has made 12 recommendations to the South Western Sydney Local Health District and the Department of Family and Community Services (FCH), who partly funded IWHS and NESH.
This included encouraging FCH to require funded NFPs to have an internal whistleblowing program that aligns to better practice.