Church Missionary Society Queensland With Northern NSW: charity review

This is a charity review of Church Missionary Society Queensland With Northern NSW (CMSQN), an organisation that seeks donations and is a member of Missions Interlink[1]. (Including the answers to the questions that the Australian charity regulator, the ACNC, suggests that you ask.)

For the previous review, see here.

Are they responsive to feedback?

  • Other than an invitation to comment on the new website, CMSQN do not seek feedback, nor complaints other than about the behaviour of its staff.
  • Accountability is not mentioned on the website.
  • I sent them a draft of this review. They…did not respond.

Is CMSQN registered?

  • As a charity, yes.
  • As a Queensland incorporated association (IA18316) (even though the usual ‘Inc’ or ‘Incorporated’ is absent).
  • CMSQN operates, per the ACNC Register, in NSW and Queensland. But it is still not registered to fundraise in either of these states. Perhaps it believes that it is exempt?
  • It is ‘carrying on business’ in NSW, but still it doesn’t have the required registration (an ARBN).
  • CMSQN does not, per the ACNC Register, overseas. What about its missionaries? Plus the fact that the AIS 2017 says that money was sent overseas?

What do they do?

  • There’s not much on this published:
    • The information under ‘What we do’ is not about CMSQN specifically, but about CMS generally (represented by the charity Church Missionary Society – Australia Limited (CMS-Australia).
    • There is one sentence in the AIS 2017:
      • We have continued to encourage churches and individuals in Queensland and Northern NSW to get involved in cross-cultural mission.
    • The Committee’s Report gives the ‘principal activities’ as ‘community and missionary services.’

Does CMSQN share the Gospel[2]?

  • No.

What impact are they having?

  • No information found.

What do they spend outside the costs directly incurred in delivering the above impact, that is, on administration?

  • If ‘Missionary Support to CMS Australia’ is defined as the money that goes to achieve the impact, then 68% is administration (up from 65% last year).
  • If, as CMSQN imply by the two ‘Grants and donations made…’ lines in the AIS 2016, ‘Missionary – Branch Expenses’ and ‘Missionary – Federal Expenses’ should also be included, then the figure drops to 64%.
  • Either way, it is something that deserves an explanation, especially without any information on impact.

Do they pay their board members?

  • The CMSQN governing document does not prohibit this.
  • The expenses are not classified to allow us to say one way or the other.

Can you get a tax deduction?

  • Not for a donation to CMSQN.
    • Nevertheless, the giving page that they use is, without explanation, the one belonging to CMS-Australia, nd it does offer tax-deductible giving.

Is their online giving secure?

  • Security is still not mentioned.

Is their reporting up-to-date?

  • Yes (lodged seven months after their year-end, two days before the last day allowed).
    • But if you are considering a large donation, I would ask for more up-to-date financial information – the accounts are for a year end that is now nearly 14 months ago.

Does their reporting comply with the regulator’s requirements?

  • AIS 2017: No
    • Like last year,
      • Two of the figures in the Income Statement do not match those in Financial Report.
      • The description of ‘activities’ is, except for one sentence that is common to other branches of CMS-Australia, largely about another charity (albeit an associated one).
      • No outcomes are given.
    • No answer is given to the last two questions in ‘Reporting to state or territory regulators’.
  • Financial Report 2017: No. Like last year
    • Its relationship with CMS-Australia – the organization that collects its online donations and receives its money for missionaries – is not explained.
    • The relationship between the missionaries that it has sent overseas, employees, and CMS-Australia, is not disclosed.
    • The directors have avoided having to comply with all the Accounting Standards by saying, without giving any reason, that CMSQN is not a reporting entity. This means that they believe that there are no users, present (including donors who gave a total of $1.69 m), or prospective, who rely on a regulator to get the information they need to make decisions. For an organization that receives $1.69 m in donations, operates in two states, and has 62 staff, this is implausible.
    • Statement of Comprehensive Income
      • The reimbursements in ‘Federal Expense Reimbursement’ would be more correctly shown as a deduction from the expenses rather than as revenue.
      • ‘Bookstore Sales’ and ‘Bookstore Purchases’ are included, but where is the other component(s) of cost of goods sold?
      • Bequests are not included as donations in the Statement of Cash Flows.
    • Statement of Financial Position
      • Loans from members are usually repayable on demand. Are these any different? Unless an irrevocable authority to defer repayment beyond 12 months is held, ‘Loans from members’ should be classified as a current liability, not a non-current liability.
      • There is no explanation of the ‘Fair Value Reserve’.
      • The Note on ‘Reserves’ does not match the figure in the balance sheet.
    • Statement of Cash Flows
      • Dividends are recognised ‘when the right to receive the dividend has been established’. Why then is the cash amount identical with the revenue.
      • Similarly, with interest?
    • Notes to the Financial Statements
      • There is no information on related parties (an ACNC expectation).
      • There are several other Notes missing.

What financial situation was shown by that Report?

  • The directors continued comfort with the Financial Report in the face of the issues above and a qualified audit opinion, has tipped me over to ‘No comment’.

What did the auditor say about the last financial statements?

  • The auditor, Liam Murphy of PKF Hacketts, was unable to give CMSQN a ‘clean’ opinion. Once again, he qualified the opinion:
    • In common with similar associations, it is not practical to establish control over receipts from donations and other fundraising activities, prior to their initial entry in the accounting records…
      • So, the practices of CMSQN give us no confidence that all the money that was given to CMSQN made it into the bank account.
    • If other branches of CMS-Australia, for instance Tasmania and Victoria, can avoid such a deficiency in internal controls, why can’t CMSQN?
    • Hundreds of reviews of Christian charities like this one, performed by us, show that this inability is the exception rather than the rule.

If a charity, is their information on the ACNC Register correct/correct?

  • No
    • ‘Who the Charity Benefits’ is blank.
    • The Register is blank for ‘Operates in (Countries)’. This is inconsistent with the report of $723K sent overseas (AIS 2017).

What choices do you have in how your donation is used?

  • In one sense, you have no choice – it all goes to another charity, CMS-Australia.
  • Your choices at that charity are
    • General Missionary Support’
    • ‘General Tax Deductible (sic) Gift’
    • ‘A particular worker’.
      • With a dropdown listing 93 singles/couples plus ‘Other’.
        • Those working for CMSQN are not identified, but under ‘Missionaries’ on the CMSQN webpage there are 73 singles/couples.
    • Other

Where were your (net) donations sent?

  • The (net) money given for overseas work (AIS 2017) matches the figure for ‘Missionary Support to CMS-Australia’. Beyond that, we are not told. (Presumably the bulk of it goes to CMSQN’s missionaries.)
    • The description of this expense doesn’t sound as if the tax-deductible money is included. Where’s that in the expenses?
  • So, if you give on the website, you give to CMS-Australia, the money is transferred to CMSQN, and then they transfer it back to CMS-Australia. Seems clumsy.
  • The destination of the balance of the money given for local work (AIS 2017) is not disclosed.

Who are the people controlling the organisation?

  • Not shown on the webpages, but per the ACNC Register (under ‘Responsible Persons’), they are:
    • Alison Barlow
    • John Hagidimitriou
    • Martin Hawkins
    • Ronald Herbert
    • Audrey Jordan
    • Peter Kidd
    • Colin Law
    • John Menear
    • Sheila Milton
    • Joy Palmer
    • Maxine Percival
    • Angus Robinson
    • Susan Smith
    • Simon Waller
    • Selena Yen
    • There are 11 directorships recorded for the name ‘Susan Smith’. And the register only covers charities, not all not-for-profits, and of course doesn’t include for-profit organisations.  Therefore, if after eliminating the charities for which CMSQN’s Susan Smith is not a director, you are left with the total being more than a handful, it would be legitimate for you to question whether her ability to discharge her fiduciary responsibilities is threatened.  Especially if she has a full-time job.
    • The constitution requires a minimum of 16 ‘regional delegates to the Council’ [clause 7.1]. Combining this with the other compulsory inclusions [clause 6.2], means that the Council is well short of its required number.
  • The Board is responsible to the membership. The number of members is not disclosed.

To whom are CMSQN accountable?

  • As a charity, to the ACNC.
  • And to the Queensland incorporated associations regulator.
  • Although not mentioned on their webpage, they are also accountable as a Member of Missions Interlink.
    • For one opinion on the strength of this accountability, see the section Activities in this review.

 

 

  1. The entry in the list of members leads to a ‘404 Page not found’ message.
  2. Good living and social concern are important [to the cause of evangelism], but they are not uniquely Christian graces…I’ve met a lot of fine Hindus, Muslims and atheists. Just living the life is not going to bring someone to Christ. There is much more to it than that. We must help people, certainly, but we must also share with them why we are motivated to do so. We must stand against injustice, poverty and need, but we must at the same time point to the One who brings justice and who can meet the deepest need. Until they know our reasons, how can they come to know our Lord? [Dan Armstrong, the Fifth Gospel: The Gospel According to You, Anzea Books, pp. 13-14. 

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