Langham Partnership (Australia) Incorporated: mini charity review

Mini charity review of Langham Partnership (Australia) Incorporated (LP), an organisation that seeks donations online, and claims membership of Missions Interlink. (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?

  • I sent them a draft of this review on 4 September 2017. The CEO, Gillean Smiley, sent a written response on 12 September. Her introduction to her specific comments, with my response, is included in the Appendix. Her specific comments (and my response) are included where relevant below. (I sent her my proposed responses so that she could, if necessary, modify her comments. She has chosen to leave her comments as they are.)

Is LP registered?

  • As a charity, yes
  • LP is a NSW incorporated association (INC9876767).
    • LP, in not using its full name on the internet, is possibly contravening section 41 of its enabling legislation.
      • Ministry response: “The full name is used on the internet. For example, the “Contact Us” page states

  • Reviewer comment: This is not the full name of LP. ‘Inc’ or ‘Incorporated’ is required on the end.
  • It operates, per the ACNC Register, in all eight states.
    • If it is doing business interstate, then it still doesn’t have the required registration (an ARBN).
    • It still doesn’t have a licence to fundraise in its home state, nor in the other five where one might be required[1].
      • Ministry response: LPA agrees with your footnote acknowledging the legal ambiguities regarding interstate licencing, and the existence of legal advice that indicates we are not required to be licenced in other states. Your comment is somewhat misleading that LPA “still doesn’t have a licence to fundraise in its home state”: LPA was granted a licence to fundraise in NSW, that was valid for approx. 7 years. The expiry of that licence was not communicated to LPA, (possibly due the departure of the former sole contact and the change in contact details over the 7 years). However immediate steps were taken to renew the licence on discovery of this fact. LPA is grateful to Mr Sherwood for raising the issue.”
        • Reviewer comment:
          • My statement that LP “still doesn’t have a licence to fundraise in its home state” is still true.
          • The licence expired over two years ago.
          • It does not seem fair to say that the expiry ‘was not communicated to LP’. Even if it is the case that the regulator had an obligation to tell LP that its licence was about to expire, or had expired, it is most likely the licensee’s responsibility to maintain an up-to-date contact address.

What do they do?

  • The answer to this on the website is not particularly about LP, but their AIS 2016 (even though it is almost the same as 2015) appears to be:
    • ‘Langham Partnership Australia equips pastors and leaders in the Majority World. We achieved this through funding and facilitating Biblical preaching training internationally, helping provide literature to Majority World Bible colleges and individuals, assisting the development of indigenous printing and publishing capacity and supporting two doctoral scholars from other countries who are studying in Australia.’
      • Ministry response: Langham Partnership Australia (LPA) queries any concerns regarding having an Annual Information Statement (AIS) that is consistent from year to year? Further, LPA queries what information is required beyond the tab in the website entitled “What We Do”, to answer the question “What do we do?”
        • Reviewer comment:
          • The ACNC intends for charities to describe what they did in that year. One would therefore expect at least some variation from what was said the previous year.
          • Answering the questions on the AIS is quite separate to putting something on a website.
  • LP operates overseas, per the ACNC Register, in 23 countries. Langham Partnership internationally maybe, but LP?
    • Ministry response: “Langham Partnership Australia (LPA) is able to demonstrate its involvement with and activity in many more countries than the minimum listed on the ACNC Register. We do not claim to have sole responsibility for operation in those countries, but we are an integral part of activities. In many of the countries listed on the ACNC Register, we have facilitated Preaching Training programs though (sic) our volunteer network. In others, we have funded distribution of literature, and we continue to support/work with scholars from 8 countries who have spent at least some part of their time studying in Australia. We have not claimed to operate in all countries in which Langham Partnership operate internationally (over 80), although as key members of the international council and full members of the Partnership, we might be able to do so. LPA queries what evidence would be required to demonstrate our operations in the number of countries identified?”
      • Reviewer comment: See the Annual Information Statement Guide 2016 for what qualifies a country to be included in ‘Operates in (Countries)’.

Do they share the Gospel?[2]

  • No. (It is not required by their objects.)

What impact are they having?

  • They did not respond to the regulator’s request for outcomes in the AIS 2016.
    • Ministry response: “Langham Partnership Australia (LPA) requests evidence that it did not respond to any request from the regulator. Further, LPA requests evidence that ACNC was in any way unhappy with the outcomes provided”
      • Reviewer comment:
        • Every question in the AIS is a request from the ACNC for information. One of those questions asks for LP’s outcomes.
        • I have not suggested that the ACNC made a judgment about LP’s outcomes.
  • They say that ‘Everyday, we hear stories of congregations and communities being changed, new ministries being started and indigenous leaders catching the vision and running with it’, but no examples are given.

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

  • If the totals for the three programs (‘Literature’, ‘Preaching’, and ‘Scholars’) contain no indirect costs, the answer is 69%. That is, approximately seven out of each $10 is spent on ‘administration’.
    • The absolute total spent on the three programs declined 49% over the previous year.
      • Ministry response: Langham Partnership Australia (LPA) requests a consistent definition used across all charities reviewed, of what constitutes “Administration”. “Administration” is not a term that reflects whether or not a cost is directly attributable to a program. For example, costs incurred preparing materials for an overseas Preaching Program was accounted as Administrative -Stationery and Printing, rather than Preaching costs. Policy decisions within LPA and Langham Partnership internationally has made significant changes to what is counted as “Overhead” and what is direct cost for a program. Further, changes have been made to the accounting of funds spent inside Australia on Programs, and of funds forwarded to overseas operations. Again, the figures quoted do not reflect whether funds spent in Australia on (for example) salary include any allocation for program delivery. Therefore it is impossible to make a blanket calculation on the percentage split between Program and Overhead costs, without more information than that which is being used by Mr Sherwood. LPA calculates a 54% Program/46% Overhead split for the period in question.”
        • Reviewer comment:
          • I provide a link to the ACNC’s explanation of ‘administration’, the explanation that I use.
          • I say ‘If the totals…’, then ‘administration’ is $X. This is a conditional calculation. Change the conditions, change the answer.

Do they pay their directors?

  • There is no prohibition on this in their constitution.
  • There is no line item ‘directors’ fees’ (or similar) in the expenses.

Can you get a tax deduction?

  • No.

Is their online giving secure?

Where were your (net) donations sent?

  • Each project is listed in the Income Statement. In the majority of cases, the information is not specific enough though to know to whom the money was sent.
    • Ministry response: “The Income Statement neither purports nor intends to reflect the expenditure of the money. It describes the amount raised for a project. The Expenditure Statement is the source for describing how the money was spent.
  • Reviewer comment: I have not suggested that the Income Statement says anything about the expenditure of the donations other than implying, quite reasonably, that the projects for which donations were received would be the projects on which those donations would be spent.

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

  • On the first page, it says that “If you would like to donate to a specific programme,  please indicate the name of the project/programme name with your donation.” But these are not listed.
    • Ministry response: “Listing LPA Projects would limit donors to being able to choose only those projects listed. The page described is not the source of information regarding projects – the source is email news, newsletters, presentations and the web based sources. Donors have freedom to identify ANY project of which they have learned, through the space available for a free text entry.”
      • Reviewer response: The desire to allow a donor to select any project does not, as other charities show, necessitate there being no options. In fact LP themselves overcome the limitation they suggest in their own form for donors using a credit card.
  • The page that opens after selecting ‘credit card’ has the following options:
    • Where most needed’
    • ‘Langham Literature’
    • ‘Langham Preaching’
    • ‘Langham Scholars’
    • ‘Other Projects’ – Please specify (No options given)
      • Ministry response: Please see above for why listing the options is in fact a limiting mechanism.”

Is their reporting up-to-date?

  • Yes (six and a half months after their year-end, three months earlier than last year).

Does their reporting comply with the regulator’s requirements?

  • AIS 2016: No
    • ‘Type of financial statement’ is incorrect.
    • No outcomes are reported.
    • The figure for ‘Employee expenses’ doesn’t match the information in the Income Statement.
  • Financial Report 2016: No. Once again
    • It is missing two of the four required financial statements.
    • The Income Statement is in a format long since superseded.
    • There is only one accounting policy described, and most of the other required Notes are missing.
    • The directors say that LP ‘is not a reporting entity’, and therefore doesn’t have to comply with all the Accounting Standards, but they don’t say why.
    • They are effectively saying that they don’t have any users, present or prospective, who rely on their financial statements.
    • The cover has
    • the name and contact details of the auditor, not LP.
    • an attempt to make the Report confidential to the members of LP.
      • Ministry response: “LPA requests evidence that any of the above allegations are valid or correct. As repeatedly requested throughout this document, this includes any evidence that LPA reporting was in any way insufficient or unsatisfactory for to (sic) any stakeholder or regulator.”
        • Reviewer comment:
          • The ACNC website plus the help of any accountant who is a member of one of the three professional bodies will show that my comments are valid. If it is found that I have made a mistake I am happy to change the review.
          • I have not based my comments on whether stakeholders or regulators are satisfied that LP’s reporting complies with their requirements. (With the regulators, the acceptance of a Report normally does not guarantee that the Report complies with their requirements.)

What financial situation was shown in that Report?

  • Although the loss as a percentage of revenue was reduced from 49% to 28%, successive losses means that there is now less equity than last year’s loss.

What did the auditor say about the last financial statements?

  • Despite the issues with the Financial Report – see above – the auditor, Alison E. Lacey, Chartered Accountant, issued a ‘clean’ opinion[3].
    • Alison is only qualified to do this audit because of the ACNC’s transitional provisions for reporting by incorporated associations: the NSW regulator doesn’t require the audit of LP to be performed by a registered company auditor.

If a charity, is their page on the ACNC Register complete?

  • Not quite. LP is, at least according to the ACNC, (still) long overdue in selecting an Entity Subtype.
    • Ministry response: The ACNC register includes the followong information, which has been present since 2014 (as noted in the attached snapshot). LPA queries in what way ACNC claims that LPA is overdue in selecting the entity sub type “Advancing Religion” in 2014?”

Reviewer comment: My comment is an accurate reflection of what it says at the top on the right-hand side of LP’s record on the ACNC Register.

  • ‘Phone’ and ‘Website’ are still blank, but these are not compulsory.

Who are the people controlling the organisation?

  • Said, on the website, to be these people.
    • A Public Officer is not automatically a member of a committee of an association.
  • The list on the ACNC Register (under ‘Responsible Persons’) has the above people, plus Gillean Smiley (twice), and Trevor Cork again:
    • Paul Barker
    • Graham Collins
    • Trevor Cork
    • Trevor Cork
    • Jill McGilvray
    • Grant Robinson
    • Gillean Smiley
    • Gillean Smiley
    • David Tsai
      • Ministry response: “There is no claim that the CEO is present as a Director: the ACNC records her presence as “Other”, which is all that is required. There are several persons listed twice. The ACNC website only allos people to be removed by stating on which date they ceased to be Responsible Officers. AS the relevant people have not ceased to be Responible Officers, it is jusdged better to leave them on twice than attempt to remove them with an inaccurate statement. It is assumed that any sensible reader of this information will reaalise the entry has been duplicated, and there are not two people wiith the same name.”

      • Reviewer comment:
        • I have not suggested that the CEO was listed because she was a director – in fact I suggest the opposite.
        • If she is not a director then she shouldn’t be included on the Register.
        • There are only two responsible persons listed twice.
        • An incorrect entry is not the only reason that a name may appear twice: some charities consider that if a person holds two offices then they should be included twice.
        • I suspect that the ACNC would be happy for LP to enter any date if it were the way to remove a duplication.
  • There is no provision in the constitution for the CEO to be a director. Is she there as an elected member?
  • The committee is responsible to the members. We don’t know the size of the membership.
    • Ministry response: “Membership of LPA is clearly detailed in the Constitution. LPA queries where the regulator or any other entity requires details concerning members, including numbers?
      • Reviewer comment: I have not suggested that there is any legal requirement to disclose the number of members.

To whom are LP accountable?

  • Membership of Missions Interlink claimed. However, they no longer appear on the list of members.
    • For one opinion on the strength of this accountability, see the section Activities in this review.
  • Also accountable to the ACNC[4].
  • And to the New South Wales regulator of incorporated associations.
    • Ministry response: “LPA queries evidence that any other entity to which it is accountable has expressed any concern or dssatisfaction (sic) with its performance in any respect?
      • Reviewer comment: I have not suggested that a regulator has expressed concern or dissatisfaction. All I do is list those entities to which LP has accountability.

 

 

 

Appendix: Ministry Response

“Langham Partnership (Australia) expresses its deep concern with the publishing of any of the information included in this “review”. We note that

  • The “review” was not requested or authorised
    • Reviewer comment: Neither request nor authorisation is required for somebody to review a product or service for the benefit of future consumers.
  • There is nothing contained in the “review” (other than inaccuracies or misinterpretations) that is not otherwise fully and freely available to the public.
    • Reviewer comment:
      • As will be seen in the review above, LP has not identified any ‘inaccuracies or misinterpretations’.
      • The review adds to the information that is available to the public by (a) gathering it in one place, (b) organising it in answer to the questions that should be asked by a donor, and (c) providing links to explanatory material.
  • LPA is unaware of any qualification or expertise that would enable Mr Sherwood to undertake a professional and comprehensive review or to publish any “findings” from a review in a credible fashion.
    • Reviewer comment: I can appreciate how LPA may be unaware of these things.
  • Having briefly explored the front page of Mr Sherwood’s site, not only are these questions unanswered, but I can find no “reviewed” charity that has actually responded to Mr Sherwood’s claims. The conclusion could be drawn that these credible and well respected charities may not wish to waste time responding to allegations that are poorly informed and inaccurate.
    • Reviewer comment:
      • There are ten reviews on the first page. Three show responses, and another is preparing a response. I would not be surprised if this response rate (40%) applies to the entire database of reviews.
      • LP offer my support for their claims (a) that what I have written in the reviews on the first page are ‘allegations’, and (b) that the statements and questions in these review are ‘poorly informed and inaccurate.’ LP’s conclusion is not even supported by the material I present about them.
  • Given that LPA has responded, we do not authorise or permit Mr Sherwood to publish any of his findings without including LPA’s full and unedited response. Further, LPA reserves the right to seek redress should anything be published that is inaccurate or in any way unfairly detrimental to LPA’s reputation.
    • Reviewer comment:
      • Although I do not need LP’s authorisation or permission to publish a review of publicly available information, it is my practice – as is evident from the published reviews – to seek the response of the charity before publication, and then to publish that response in full. This would have been no different with LP.
      • I will not be seeking redress from LPA for the damage done to my reputation.
  • LPA regrets the unnecessarily aggressive, confrontational and on occasion offensive tone and language used by Mr Sherwood, which undermines what may otherwise have been seen as a positive attempt to review and evaluate the performance of Christian ministries.”
    • Reviewer comment: I leave it to the reader to judge both my behaviour and that of LP.

 

 

  1. The law in this area is not straightforward – is an internet invitation ‘fundraising, for instance – and advice varies, so check with the charity before drawing any conclusions.
  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.
  3. To take the right amount of comfort for this finding, please read here and here.
  4. LP have, since the review was drafted, relinquished their membership of Missions Interlink. This means that they no longer have an exemption from income tax via such a membership.

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