Yéle Haiti under Scrutiny

Let the finger-pointing begin. Once charity groups begin to receive millions of dollars, our policing spirit rears its ugly head; suspicions arise as to the legitimacy of the organizations, how the money is being distributed, whether the organization has acted with transparency during its years of service, and “whether the organization had filed tax returns.”

A report says that Yéle Haiti, “a small organization founded by Haitian-American musician Wyclef Jean, has received millions of dollars in donations for earthquake relief since Tuesday, but serious questions have arisen about its bookkeeping.” NPR’s Neda Ulaby reports that the organization began as a small-scale charity up until now using the funds for schools, environmental groups, and such. However, nhow that the group has gathered close to 2 million dollars this week alone, William Bastone, editor of the Smoking Gun, says that it is reasonable to question “whether they know what to do with the money.” He stresses that their tax “returns show substantial financial mismanagement, especially in 2006.” The charitable organization’s president Hugh Locke found the objections unjustified and he coherently explained (when asked about $100,000 that went to a fundraiser by Jean) that inevitably some of the money needs to cover expenditures of the fundraisers themselves, such as musicians, equipment, as well as organizational and production costs. He added that they have always focused on delivery of services to Haiti.

 As a final question, “because this is not a report about dollars and cents,” Ulaby asks Locke whether the organization had lost anyone in the earthquake; Locke can only respond by bursting into tears. Ulaby ends the report by saying, “The last thing this organization needed was a public relations disaster on top of the one in Haiti.” I agree. Although there was no evidence of reprehensible disbursement of funds, enough damage has been done. We can easily fill in the blanks to get at the subtext of the allegations made and what is really being said about the politics of legitimacy.

For the NPR report, go to http://www.wbur.org/media-player?url=http://www.wbur.org/npr/122645721&title=Wyclef%20Jean%27s%20Haitian%20Charity%20Comes%20Under%20Scrutiny

For full article and video of Wyclef Jean’s personal statement on the accusations, see http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/2010/01/16/2010-01-16_wyclef_jean_denounces_attacks_on_yele_haiti_foundation.html

Link to the Yéle Haiti Foundation: http://www.yele.org/

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