Middle East Christian Outreach (Australia) Inc: charity review

Mini charity review of Middle East Christian Outreach (Australia) Inc (MECO)

The previous review (in black) is used as a base, with comment only if the situation has changed or extra information would be helpful.

as an organisation seeking donations online. (Including the answers to the questions that the Australian charity regulator, the ACNC, suggests that you ask.)

2018 review:

  • MECO is still a Member of Missions Interlink[1], an organisation that gives Members exemption[2] from income tax.
  • Members of Missions Interlink have to accept a set of standards, the introduction to which includes this statement:

Is it responsive to feedback?

  • When sent a draft of this review, they…did not respond.
  • 2018 review: They did not respond to a draft of this review.

Is MECO registered?

  • As a charity, yes.
  • Other registrations:
    • MECO is a Victorian incorporated association (A0008890J).
    • The ACNC Register shows that it is operating in all eight states, but it does not have the required ARBN registration to allow it to operate outside Victoria.
    • It also doesn’t have a licence to fundraise in the seven six states that have a licensing regime[3].
    • It uses the name MECO Australia but has not registered it as a business name. (The company of the same name is in administration.)

What do they do?

  • The page for Australia on the MECO International site doesn’t give MECO’s mission, but the mission of the bigger body is to support Middle East Christians in sharing the love of Jesus Christ’.
  • This is how MECO’s Annual Information Statement (AIS) 2015 describes the Australian activities and outcomes:
    • Partner in mission with Middle Eastern churches and communicate, in a variety of ways, the beliefs of the Christian faith. The major activities were to – select and support workers from Australia, – support and care for workers returned from the Middle East, and – publicise and promote the work of the Association throughout Australia.
    • 2018 review: The description is identical in the AIS two years later.
  • Although they said in the AIS 2015 that they had no intention of ‘changing the way charity (sic) pursues its purposes in the next reporting period’, in March 2016 they announced a merger with SIM International.
    • 2018 review: There is no evidence on the website that this new organisation was formed.

Do they share the Gospel?

  • If ‘the beliefs of the Christian faith’ (above) is not only about communicating to church members’, then yes.

What impact are they having?

  • Nothing found.

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

  • If we assume that the expense ‘Ministry Partnership’ is what was ‘directly incurred’ on the mission, then it cost $259K to send $258K.
    • That’s 50% on ‘administration’.
  • 2018 review: The expenses are no longer classified so as to allow this calculation.

Can you get a tax deduction?

  • No

Is their online giving secure?

  • Given that they use PayPal, yes.

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

  • Two: ‘’General Funds’ or ‘Specified Support’ – although the page following that may break up ‘Specified Support’.
  • 2018 review: If this choice still exists, it occurs after the page where you enter the amount.

Is their reporting up-to-date?

  • Yes. (Four and a half months after year end.)
  • 2018: Five and a half months.

Does their reporting comply with the regulator’s requirements?

  • AIS 2015: No
    • No outcomes reported.
    • ‘Other Income’ is incorrect.
    • No grants reported.
  • 2018 review:
    • No outcomes.
    • The ‘main beneficiary’ of MECO’s work is not ‘General community in Australia’.
    • Two of the four line items under ‘Gross Income’ are incorrect.
  • Financial Report 2015: Questionable. The ACNC would probably pass it but
    • The directors say that MECO ‘is not a reporting entity’, and therefore doesn’t have to comply with all the Accounting Standards, but they don’t say why. What they are effectively saying is that they have no users, either current or prospective, who rely on MECO’s financial statements. This for an organisation taking $481K in donations, operating in all states and having an invitation to give on the internet.
    • The Notes to the accounts are not a complete set.

What financial situation was shown in that Report?

  • The percentage of surplus to income declined from 10% to negative 4%.
  • They have continued to lend a significant amount, $161K (borrower unspecified), while at the same time continuing to borrow $77K (lender unspecified).
  • 2018 review:
    • A deficit of 23% of income became a surplus of 43%, largely due to an increase in donations.
    • ‘Project Expenses’ went from 13% to zero.
    • There is no explanation for why the extra donations were not used for beneficiaries.
    • The borrowings are from supporters.

What did the auditor say about the last financial statements?

  • MECO, being a Medium-sized charity, took advantage of the law that allows it to have a review, rather than an audit. Still performed by an independent auditor though. This was the reviewer’s conclusion:
    • Based on our review, which is not an audit, we have no become aware of any matter that makes us believe, that the financial report…does not present a true and fair view, in all material respects… [4]
      • But note that he approved of the directors’ decision to produce the type of financial statements that require less disclosure.
  • The auditor is again Matthew Hung, CA, of rdl.accountants.

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

  • Almost. ‘Phone’ and ‘Website’ are blank.
  • 2018 review:
    • A phone number and the website are now included.
    • MECO may be known as ‘MECO Australia’, but the name is not registered.

Who are the people controlling the organisation?

  • Not mentioned on the website.
  • From ‘Responsible Persons’ on the ACNC Register:
    • Joshua Aylward
    • Annette Cook
    • Richard Coombs
    • Lorelei Edwardes
    • John Haig
    • Peter Thomas
  • 2018 review: John Haig has joined, and it appears that Lorelei might have got married.

To whom is MECO accountable?

  • They are accountable because of their membership of Missions Interlink[5].
  • They are also accountable to the ACNC.
  • 2018 review: And to the regulator of Victorian incorporated associations.

 

 

  1. In the name’ Middle East Christian Outreach Australia’.
  2. Even though they do not meet the “in Australia” test and do not have deductible gift recipient status.
  3. 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.
  4. Even if it had been the stronger engagement, an audit, you would need to take care to take the right amount of comfort from a ‘clean’ opinion like this: see here and here.
  5. For one opinion on the strength of that accountability, see the section Activities in this review.

 

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