Prison Fellowship Australia: mini-charity review

The charity's Annual Information Statement current at the time of this review has since been superseded.  Please contact me if you are facing a significant decision with this charity and an updated review would be of help.

Mini-charity review of Prison Fellowship Australia (PFA), an organisation that invites the public to donate to it, and that is connected, through a director, John Peberdy, to the organisation that is planning to accredit ‘Christian organisations against a set of standards of good governance, financial oversight, and fundraising ethics.’

(Including the answers to the questions that the Australian charity regulator, the ACNC, suggests that you ask.)

To see the situation last year, read this review.

Is it responsive to feedback?

  • I sent a draft of the review on 5 April 2017. They did not respond.

Is it registered?

  • Yes, as a charity.
  • PFA is a public company, a company limited by guarantee.
    • It is entitled to omit ‘Limited/’Ltd’ from the end of its name.
  • It operates, per the ACNC Register, in all eight states of Australia. It has offices in six states. It also fundraises via the internet. However, it has a fundraising licence in only two of the seven states that have a licensing regime[1].

What does PFA do?

  • ‘Across Australia there are over 1000 volunteer men and women visiting prisoners, running programs in prisons, organising camps and providing Christmas presents for prisoners’ children, supporting ex- prisoners when they are released, playing sports, running in-prison Bible studies, and providing many other services.’ [https://prisonfellowship.org.au/prison-fellowship-australia/].

Do they share the Gospel?

  • The PFA mission is ‘To share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with prisoners, ex-offenders, and their families.’

What impact are they having?

  • Nothing systematic found.
    • The website has only two references to impact.

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

  • The expenses are not classified to allow this calculation.

Can you get a tax deduction?

  • It says so on their ABN record, but there is no mention of it on their website.

Is their online giving secure?

  • If security is mentioned it is after you have entered your personal information.

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

  • Prison Visiting’
  • ‘Angel Tree’
  • ‘The Prisoners (sic) Journey’
  • ‘Sycamore Tree Project’
  • ‘SLAM’
  • ‘Change On The Inside’
  • ‘Camp for Kids’
  • ‘Darwin’
  • ‘Where Most Needed’

Is their reporting up-to-date?

  • Yes (six months after their year-end).

Does their reporting comply with the regulator’s requirements?

  • Annual Information Statement 2015 (AIS 2015): No
    • The description of activities is not particularly about 2015.
    • No outcomes are reported.
    • Their business name is missing.
  • Financial Report 2015: No.
    • The directors have again adopted the lower standard special purpose financial statements.
      • It stretches credulity to suggest, as the PFA directors do, that an organisation with $1.70 m turnover, 15 employees, 1075 volunteers, and that has offices in six states[2], had ‘no users who are dependent on general purpose financial statements’.
    • Note 1 first says that the financial statements cover PFA ‘as an individual entity’ then, two paragraphs later, says that ‘the report covers (PFA) as a consolidated entity, made up by the following entities:
      • Prison Fellowship Queensland
      • Prison Fellowship National (sic) Territory
      • Prison Fellowship Western Australia
      • Prison Fellowship New South Wales
      • Prison Fellowship Tasmania
      • Prison Fellowship South Australia
      • Prison Fellowship National Office
      • Prison Fellowship Victoria
        • All these entities have an ABN except for ‘National Office’.
        • Four of them are in the former name of PFA, Prison Fellowship of Australia (emphasis added).
    • Consolidation fits with the fact that the Articles of Association [clause 60A], require ‘Each State Council’ to produce “a balance sheet and profit and loss account’ for their AGM.
    • But
      • There is no mention of Councils on the PFA website.
      • There are seven state entities above but only six ‘State contacts’.

What financial situation was shown in that Report?

  • A 16% decline in revenue was more than compensated for by a 37% reduction in ‘Employee benefits expense’. This helped to turn a negative 3% return on revenue into a positive 4%.
  • The ratio of current assets to current liabilities was increased significantly (from 1.9 to 2.8).
  • Long-term financial structure appears sound.

What did the auditor say about the last financial statements?

  • Although he gave a ‘clean’ opinion, the auditor, Matthew Hung of rdl.accountants,
    • agreed with the directors’ decision that there are no users (present or prospective) who are dependent on general purpose financial statements (see ‘Financial Report’, above), and
    • left in the accounts the confusion over the connection between PFA and its state bodies.

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

  • Almost – their business name is missing.
    • The governing document is still missing the Memorandum of Association though.

Who are the people controlling the organisation?

  • The nine people shown here on the website.
  • Who are also shown under ‘Responsible Persons’ on the ACNC Register:
    • David Cormack
    • Shane Ellery
    • Peter Hall
    • David Maxwell
    • Daryl Myatt
    • Steven Nicholson
    • Vera Ou-Young
    • Michael Wood
    • John Peberdy
      • John is a director of Christian Ministry Advancement Ltd, the organization that is introducing a ‘major new initiative, accrediting Christian organisations against a set of standards of good governance, financial oversight, and fundraising ethics.’
    • There are 14 directorships recorded for the name ‘John Peberdy’, and 11 for ‘Peter Hall’. And the register only covers charities, not all not-for-profits, and no for-profit organisations. Therefore, if after eliminating the charities that don’t belong to the PFA director, you are left with their total being more than a handful, it would be legitimate for you to question whether their ability to discharge his fiduciary responsibilities is threatened.

To whom is PFA accountable?

  • To the ACNC.
  • And, as a company, to ASIC.

 

 

  1. The licence in NSW is in the name Prison Fellowship of Australia, a NSW entity. The licence in Queensland is in the name Prison Fellowship of Australia Queensland Council; 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. AIS 2915.

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