Wycliffe Bible Translators Australia, charity review

The charity's Annual Information Statement current at the time of this review has since been superseded.  Please start with the updated review published in November 2016, and come back to this one as needed.

This is a charity review, a review, for donors, of the Australian charity Wycliffe Bible Translators Australia (WBT).

It is structured according to the charity’s entry on the ACNC[i]Register, and its purpose is to supply some information extra to what is there, information that may be helpful in your giving decision.

It is up to you to decide whether any or all of the information presented here is what you need in order to make that decision, and whether you should seek any other information, either from the charity itself or from other sources.

Ministry response

Prior to publishing this review, I sent my observations to the charity, on 30 October 2015, and invited them to comment. They did not respond by the time I published the review two weeks later, on 13 November.

Organisation of this review

  • The first part of this review is organised according to the headings in the register entry. This is how to use that section:
    1. For each heading in the register entry, first read the information under that heading.
    2. Then check if that heading is included below. (Headings for which there is no comment are not included.)
  • There is then a more detailed comment on the Financial Report.
  • Lastly, there is a section Membership of accountability organisations claimed.

Sources

  • ACNC Register (including links)
  • Google search on the charity’s names (see Charity Details, below).
  • WBT website. WBT on Facebook (the only social media site, here). Not on LinkedIn.
  • State government fundraising licence registers.
  • www.glassdoor.com.au

REGISTRATION DETAILS

Entity Subtype

  • The first of these is a type consistent with sharing the Gospel.
  • The company’s primary object is similarly consistent, and similarly indirect:

The objects for which the Association is formed are to promote the translation of the Holy Scriptures into vernacular languages…[Memorandum of Association, clause 3.(2), see Charity’s Document (sic), below.]

CHARITY DETAILS

Legal Name

  • Not to be confused with the charity Maf Australia Wycliffe Bible Translators, a joint venture between WBT and another charity, Maf Australia, to own and run Tree Tops Lodge in Cairns.
  • WBT is a public company, a company limited by guarantee.
  • It is permitted to omit ‘Ltd’ on the end of its name.

Other Name(s)

  • This is not a registered business name.

Charity ABN

  • Tax deductibility: You cannot claim a tax deduction for a donation to WBT.

Charity Address for Service

  • I didn’t get a response, but I have no reason to think that this address is invalid.

Charity Street Address

  • No postal address on the website.

Email

  • See Charity Address for Service, above.

ANNUAL REPORTING

  • AIS 2014
    • This is WBT’s compulsory Annual Information Statement 2014 (AIS 2014).
    • It gives basic financial information.
      • If you think that this is sufficient for you then you should note that
        • Because they are not shown in the audited statements, it is not possible to verify any of the line items in the Income Statement.
  • Financial Report 2014
    • The report was signed four months after the year end.
    • It was then lodged over two months after that, a day before the due date.
    • The coverage of finances in this review is left until the financial report proper (Latest financial report – in detail, below).

ABOUT THE CHARITY

Who the Charity Benefits

  • Statement of Faith
    • There is a very brief one under ‘Beliefs and Values’ on the website:

We believe in the one true God, his Word to us in the Bible, and his concern for the whole world; (sic) every person, from every language group.”

    • There is a longer one – a Doctrinal Statement – in the Memorandum of Association:         

This Association is evangelical and inter-denominational and the work of the Association shall be carried out in strict compliance with the Doctrinal Basis of the Association as follows:The divine inspiration and consequent authority of the whole canonical Scriptures.         

The fall of man, his consequent moral depravity and his need of regeneration.         

The doctrine of justification by faith.         

The eternal life of the saved and the eternal punishment of the lost.

The resurrection of the body, both in the case of the just and the unjust.

The atonement through the substitutionary death of Christ.

 The doctrine of the Trinity.

To see disciples of Jesus from the minority language groups of the world growing through the Scriptures being available to them in their own heart language.

  • Mission
    • None found.
  • Activities (What did WBT do?)
    • From Description of charity’s activities and outcomes in the AIS 2014:

In 2014 more language communities have had some Scriptures published in their language through the direct involvement of WBTA members. Australian translation consultants, trainers and program managers have made valuable contributions to the success of over 100 local translation teams globally. These local translations teams are often working in multi-language clusters with strong training components. Some Scripture publications were digitally released for phone applications, in audio, and downloadable from the internet. More people were recruited and trained to provide training and logistical support to partner organisations in Australia and other countries. The vision and goals of the organisation were promoted among the Australian Christian community.

  • Outcomes (What did WBT deliver?)
  • Impact (How were people’s lives improved?)
    • Nothing formal or systematic found.
    • A few are given in the Corporate Report, but this covers mid-2013 to mid-2015, i.e. more than the financial year.

Size of Charity

  • With a revenue of $1.71 m, WBT qualifies in the largest of the ACNC three size categories (‘Large’).

Financial Year End

  • This means that the next financial report is due by 30 June 2016. Before that the financial information on the Register will be up to 18 months out-of-date.

WHERE THE CHARITY OPERATES

Operating State(s)[ii]

  • Although operating in all states, and calling for donations on its website, WBT has a licence to fundraise only in Victoria. Six other states have a licensing regime.

CHARITY’S DOCUMENT (SIC)

  • There is no Annual Report/Review available on the ACNC Register.
  • Nor on the website. There is, however, a Biennial Corporate Report under Resources/Publications.

RESPONSIBLE PERSONS

No. of Australian charity directorships[iii]

Malcolm Barker                         2

Philip Bignall                              1

Fai-Peng Chen                            1

Graydon Colville                        2

Richard Earley                            1

Ann Eckert                                   2

David Grayden                            1

Cindy McGarvie                          3

Titus Phua                                    1

Geoffrey Shepherd                     6

Kathryn Snook                            1

Darrell Thatcher                        3

Timothy Wilson                         15 (11 after duplicates are ignored)

Ross Wilkerson                          3

  • The website lists the board members towards the bottom here.
    • It appears that the list has yet to be updated for the last changes to the Board.

 

(End of review of the ACNC Register information)

 

Latest financial report – detail

  • Figures for a significant joint venture are included but there is no description of the venture, nor is the accounting policy for the venture given.
  • There are also significant related party relationships that are not described, including one with a member and possibly one with a director.

Directors’ Report (page 1 of the Financial Report)

  • The ACNC does not require this report.
  • For some of the directors their current job/business is missing.
  • The term ‘Executive Member’ for Wilkerson matches his position in the Directors’ Report, but not his title as ‘Non-Executive Director’ in the same report. Plus there is no Executive or Executive Committee mentioned anywhere else.
  • The Constitutional Review Committee (and the Executive Committee if there is one) has been omitted from the ‘Meetings of Directors’.
  • The liability under the guarantee – company limited by guarantee – implies that there are (or were) 266 members.
  • The Auditor’s Independence Declaration is in the Financial Report, not the Directors’ Report as stated.

What was earned, what was consumed during the year – the Statement of Comprehensive Income (page 5 of the Financial Report)

What was earned:

  • Revenues from ordinary activities $1.71 m
    • This implies that revenue can also arise from extraordinary activities, a distinction that has long since gone from the Accounting Standards.
    • Besides, revenue is itself defined in the Standards as inflows that arise from ordinary activities.
    • No donations are shown.
    • The revenue from the shop is neither shown nor is obvious in which line item it is included.
    • WBT has seventeen (17) donation options on its website: three for ‘members’, thirteen ‘projects’, and ‘bequests’. However, for only one, the last, is it possible to see under Revenue what was received.
  • Operating income $828K
    • There is no Note explaining this item.
    • For a charity that translates the Bible, what is ‘operating income’ as opposed to the other items in the list (other than interest, dividends, and gain on sale of assets)?
    • Note 1 says that this figure includes 10% of legacies.
  • Interest income $169K
    • This represents approximately 4.4% p.a. on estimated average interest-bearing deposits/investments.
  • Legacies $109K
    • Note that this figure is understated by 41.5%. 10% has been transferred to ‘Operating income’, and then 10% and 25% of the balance is transferred to ‘Tithe income’ and the ‘Program income’ respectively.
  • Program income $300K
    • There is no Note explaining this item.
    • Note that this figure includes 25% of all legacies received.
  • Rental income $261K (last year $338K)
    • There is no Note explaining this item.
    • There are no corresponding investment properties in the balance sheet.
    • Why the 23% decline in this income?
  • Tithe Income $32,115
    • There is no Note explaining this item.
    • WBT is not a church, so why is it getting, other than the 10% taken from legacies (see above), tithes?

What was consumed in the course of earning the revenue (see above):

  • Expenses from ordinary activities $1.84 m
    • This is, contrary to the Accounting Standards, a mixed classification of expenses.
    • The following expenses are not disclosed:
      • Fundraising
      • Administration
      • Employee benefits
      • Superannuation
      • Cost of sales
      • Finance costs
  • Operating expenses $893K
    • This means that a $64K loss was made on ‘operating’ – however defined (see above).
  • Program expenses $327K
    • This means that a $27K loss was made on ‘programs’ – however defined (see above).
  • Rental expenses $271K
    • This means that a $10K loss was made on ‘rental’ activities – however defined (see above).
  • Tithe expense $25K
    • This means that a $7K profit was made on ‘tithes’– however defined (see above).
  • Joint Venture loss $4K
    • There is no note describing a joint venture, or the accounting policy for that joint venture.

What’s left at the end of the year – the Balance Sheet (page 6 of the Financial Report

  • Cash Assets $411K (including Note 3)
    • As acknowledged in the Notes, this can include more than just cash.
    • The correct title is ‘Cash and cash equivalents’.
    • Why is $11K cash held outside bank accounts?
    • ‘Ready Investment Acct – USA’ $4K overdrawn
      • The policy for currency translation is not disclosed.
      • How can an investment account be overdrawn?
  • Other Financial Assets $350K (including Note 4)
    • Note the $150K increase even though there was an operating loss for the year.
    • For what are they saving? (These term deposits are for longer than three months.)
  • Receivables $120K, current (including Note 5)
    • The largest part, $102K, is unexplained.
    • Is any of the total doubtful?
    • Note 15 tells us that ‘Amounts due from related entities’ is owed by Summer Institute of Linguistics Australia. However, it also shows that WBT owes the same charity $47K.
      • There is no disclosure of how the two companies are related.
  • Inventories $30K (including Note 6)
    • From the description for the three items, WBT are producing books, using copies and gas as raw materials. This needs an explanation.
  • Receivables (non-current) $692K (including Note 8)
    • Why is WBT making loans to the company’s members?
      • What are the terms?
    • Why did WBT make a loan to ‘Word Investments’?
      • What are the terms?
      • Why no reduction in the amount in 2014?
      • Why is no part of the loan, including the $1.03 m below, classified as current?
    • Is the ‘Snook 2nd mortgage Cairns’ a loan to the board member with the same name (or related)?
      • Under whose authority was this made?
      • What are the terms?
    • Is any of the total doubtful?
  • Other Financial Assets $2.44 m (including Note 9)
    • Why is the $1.03 m loan to ‘Word Investments’ classified differently from the loan to the same organisation under Receivables?
      • What are the terms?
      • Why did it increase by $130K in 2014?
    • What are the $1.25 m of ‘Mortgages RMBL Mortgages’?
      • What are the terms?
    • Is any of the total doubtful?
  • Interest in Joint Venture $2.21 m
    • This is 22% of assets, yet there is no Note.
    • How is it valued?
    • Where can we see the joint venture’s accounts?
  • Property, Plant & Equipment $3.79 m (including Note 10)
    • What land cost $12K?
    • There is no reconciliation for last year?
    • The valuation basis for buildings is not stated.
  • Accounts payable and other payables $751K, current (including Note 11)
    • ‘Amounts owed to members’ ($697K) should be classified as borrowings.
    • Why is WBT borrowing from the company’s members?
  • Accounts payable and other payables $229K, non-current (including Note 12)
    • ‘Amounts owed to related entities’: what entities, and why?
  • Reserves $7.63 m (including Note 13)
    • Property, plant and equipment is carried at cost. Why would there be anything in an Asset Revaluation Reserve?
    • Even if WBT were revaluing land and buildings, why would the amount in the Reserve be identical to the total of Property, plant and equipment on the balance sheet?
    • What is ‘Equity in Joint Venture’?
    • What is the accounting policy for shares that produces a Revaluation Reserve?
      • How does this fit with generally accepted accounting principles?
    • Why would the balance be $108K when the total in the balance sheet is $111K?
    • What is the distinction between ‘Internal’ and ‘External’ reserves?

Movements in the net wealth of the charity – the Statement of Changes in Equity – page 7 of the Financial Report

  • Revaluation – joint venture
  • Revaluation – shares
    • These don’t match ‘Other comprehensive income’

Where the cash came from and went to – the Statement of Cash Flows (page 8 of the Financial Report)

  • Donations should be separate.
  • Where are the dividends on the shares?

Essential information to go with the figures – the Notes To The Financial Statements… – page 9 of the financial report

  • Note 1: Summary of Significant Accounting Policies
    • The directors say the company is a ‘not a reporting entity’, but they don’t say why.
      • They are in effect saying that anybody who is interested in this company has the power to contact the company and request a report tailored to their particular needs.
      • The result of the decision is that the accounts don’t comply with the Australian Accounting Standards, and can disclose considerably less than that required for a general purpose report, a report designed for those people who are dependent on the charity’s report for the information they need.
      • You can compare the directors’ decision to this advice from the ACNC:
        • If people use and rely on your charity’s financial statements to help them make decisions (for example, about how to spend money) then your charity is most likely a reporting entity.
          • Although not clear from this, the directors should also consider prospective users.
    • Missing Notes
      • Commitments
      • Events after the reporting period
      • Employee benefits
    • Revenue recognition
      • Sales revenue has been omitted.
      • What is the purpose of transferring some of the legacies to other revenue items?
    • Cash and cash equivalents
      • This term does not match what is shown in the Balance Sheet.
    • Trade and other receivables
      • This term does not match what is shown in the Balance Sheet.
    • Investments in other financial assets
      • There are no assets called ‘Held-to-maturity investments’ in the Balance Sheet.
    • Impairment of non-financial assets
      • There are no ‘goodwill and other intangible assets’ in the Balance Sheet.
    • Trade and other payables
      • This term does not match what is shown in the Balance Sheet.
    • Borrowings
      • There are no liabilities in the balance sheet called ‘Borrowings.
    • Finance costs
      • No interest is shown in the financial statements.
    • Provisions
      • There are no provisions in the Balance Sheet.
    • Critical accounting judgments, estimates and assumptions
      • There is no Provision for impairment of receivables in the Balance Sheet.
      • There is no Provision for impairment of inventories in the Balance Sheet.
  • Note 14 – Contingent Liabilities
    • How is it that a member of the company has a share in a ‘property’ on WBT’s land?
      • Presumably it is a share in the building only?
      • Do they pay rent?
      • Where is WBT’s share shown in the accounts?

Where the board members put their name behind the report – the Directors’ Declaration – page 20 of the Financial Report

  • The strong connection between WBT and Summer Institute of Linguistics (see above) is shown by the fact that the directors say here that the statements were prepared for ‘the members of Summer Institute of Linguistics Australia’ rather than for WBT members.

An independent opinion on the financial statements – the Independent Auditor’s Report (page 22 of the Financial Report)

  • This is a ‘clean’ opinion.  Read here and here to draw the right conclusions from this.

Membership of accountability organisations claimed

  • Not claimed on the website itself, but some of its publications mention that it is a member of Missions Interlink, for instance on page 4 of this one. Confirmed on this list.

(End of review)

 

 

[i] Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission, Australia’s national regulator of charities.

[ii] This is how the ACNC explains ‘operating locations’ in their application guide: ‘You need to give details about where in Australia your organisation conducts (or plans to conduct) its activities.’

[iii] Because of the possibility of two (or more) directors having the same name on the register of responsible persons, it is not possible to be definitive about the number of directorships held.

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