World
Red Cross CEO Tried to Kill Government Investigation
Despite public vows of transparency, CEO Gail McGovern lobbied a congressman to spike an inquiry by the Government Accountability Office
 
This story was co-produced with NPR.
 
American Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern has long portrayed her organization as a beacon of openness, once declaring “we made a commitment that we want to lead the effort in transparency.”
 
But when the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, opened an inquiry last year into the Red Cross’ disaster work, McGovern tried to get it killed behind the scenes. 
 
“I would like to respectfully request that you consider us meeting face-to-face rather than requesting information via letter and end the GAO inquiry that is currently underway,” McGovern wrote in a June 2014 letter to Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss.
 
McGovern sent the letter, which was obtained by ProPublica and NPR, after meeting with Thompson, the ranking member of the homeland security committee. At the request of Thompson’s office, the GAO had earlier that year started an inquiry into the Red Cross’ federally mandated role responding to disasters and whether the group gets enough oversight. 
 
In her letter, McGovern suggested that, in lieu of the investigation, the congressman call her directly with questions. She provided her personal cell phone number.
 
In a statement, Thompson criticized McGovern’s request to spike the investigation. 
 
“Over time, the public has come to accept the American Red Cross as a key player in the nation’s system for disaster relief,” he said. “It is unfortunate that in light of numerous allegations of mismanagement, the American Red Cross would shun accountability, transparency and simple oversight."
 
Craig Holman, a veteran observer of congressional investigations as an advocate with the watchdog group Public Citizen, said he couldn’t remember another instance in which the subject of a GAO inquiry asked for the inquiry to be called off. 
 
“This is both a unique and particularly brazen lobby campaign by Gail McGovern to bring an end to an independent GAO investigation,” he said.
 
In a written statement, Red Cross spokeswoman Suzy DeFrancis said the group worked “cooperatively” with the GAO, providing documents and making at least a dozen senior officials available for interviews. 
 
“We had discussions with the GAO and members of Congress about the purpose and intent of the GAO study so we could respond in a way that would meet their goals, which we are doing,” DeFrancis wrote.
 
The GAO inquiry continued despite McGovern’s appeal. The agency’s final report is expected to be released… Continue Reading…
 
Courtesy: ProPublica

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Noble ACT
Bengaluru-based Ashwini Charitable Trust strives to support underprivileged children—with education and empowerment—until they are employed
 
It was the year 2000 in Bengaluru. A group of women got together to educate nine underprivileged children and empower them to enter the mainstream after they finished their education. The kids were from the Ulsoor slums in Bengaluru. The children have done well and the group of women has now widened their network. 
 
On 15 December 2000, the activity was formalised by registering a trust named after the first child it sponsored—Ashwini. “The logo has the footprint of a little child to symbolise that all our giant leaps start off with small steps,” points out Sujatha Mukherjee, a senior activist-volunteer. Ashwini Charitable Trust (ACT) is still run by the women and, after 13 years, it has 170 children and over 70 dedicated volunteers supporting its activities. 
 
ACT sponsors hardworking and dedicated children from semi-government and government-aided private schools. Its volunteers network with educational institutions where the medium of instruction is English and are within a radius of a kilometre from the ACT’s resource centre. “Every year, heads of these institutions recommend needy and deserving children whom we interview and test before admitting them into the Trust. We are proud to have a long waiting list of children who want to join us. However, we deliberately restrict our numbers so that every child gets more effective intervention,” says Ms Mukherjee.
 
The Trust was formed with the sole objective of educating and empowering underprivileged girls. However, when a girl is sponsored in a particular year, ACT takes her sibling the next year, irrespective of the gender. Hence, ACT now has about 46 boys. ACT believes that this will help uplift an entire family.
 
The activities of ACT include education, healthcare, counselling and recreation. There are two novel aspects to ACT’s work with children: teaching for financial freedom and mentoring. 
 
“Makar Sankranti, 14 January 2005, was a landmark in the history of ACT. With the help for State Bank of India’s managers, we were able to start savings bank accounts for all our children with their mothers as their natural guardians,” says Ms Mukherjee proudly.
 
As regards mentoring, senior children of the Trust volunteer for two hours every week to coach the younger children. This gradually moulds them to be responsible leaders capable of making decisions and leading a young team. The younger children, who are motivated and inspired by the hard work of their seniors, consider the latter as their role models. Ms Mukherjee says, “They bond beautifully and create an extended family.”
 
It is interesting to look back at how the first two girls under ACT’s care have fared. Sowmia came to ACT in 2000 and was ready for a mainstream job only in 2009. Her father is a tailor and mother, a homemaker; she was the youngest of three children in the family. Her older siblings are high-school dropouts. Sowmia left ACT with a BCom degree and a job with HP (Hewlett Packard). Divya, daughter of a single parent, is the eldest of three siblings. Although she could not survive the academic grind, she trained to be a graphic designer and, currently, works with Indigo—a printer in Bengaluru.
 
Over the years, the success rate of ACT’s intervention has improved. In 2013-2014, Veneetha graduated from St Joseph’s College of Commerce with a first class in BCom. She is, currently, employed with Standard Chartered Bank as an operations officer.
 
If you would like to contribute to the cause of ACT, you can send a cheque/DD drawn in favour of: The Ashwini Charitable Trust payable at Bengaluru. All contributions are eligible for tax-exemption under Section 80G of the Income-Tax Act.
 

 

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COMMENTS

Meenal Mamdani

1 year ago

I looked at the website after reading OSK's comment.

The site states clearly that it is an organization that teaches NGOs to raise funds here and abroad. It does not do any charitable work itself but helps others to raise funds for the charitable work.

Fundraising is big business. It requires skill and contacts. It can also cost a lot. Many charitable organizations spend as much as 60% of their income on raising funds.

In USA, Charity Navigator rates charitable organizations on how much is spent on fund raising, how much on administration, how transparent is the organization, how much is its top officer paid, etc. The website is http://www.charitynavigator.org/ The organization gives a rating based on this info and also points out other charitable organizations with a similar mission which have better ratings.

Now Indians have become affluent, become more aware of the deprivation around them and are more inclined to give to charitable organizations rather than just to their poor family members, caste associations or religious entities. We need an organization similar to Charity Navigator to help us give intelligently.

O S Kempawad

1 year ago

May be this ACT is genuine one.

There is another one in Jayanagar, Bengaluru. Its name is NGO Fundeaisers (http://www.ngofundraisers.com)

The person who is running it claims it is an NGO & he is doing a charitable work for the underprivileged.

But in reality it is nothing but a HITECH-BEGGING RACKET which the gentleman in question is doing in a most professional manner.

I have seen many elderly people coming and donating handsome amount of money thinking that, the gentleman in question spends that money for those needy people. No one tries to knows whether this man who has done MBA in CHEATING spends the donations for the intended purpose or not.

This great gentleman proclaims that he was head of MNC wherein there were 800 staff under him & he personally had 3 secretaries. But still left the job as some divine force guided him to quit and start this noble job.

No outsider will come to know about what this gentleman is doing. It is only when one gets inside, will come to know what is the real motive of this so called NGO!

So I think one has to be careful when donating their sweat money to such FAKE Charitable Trusts & the like.

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