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UPDATED: Wyclef under attack: doubts raised about Yele Haiti

It  has been less than a week since Haiti, a member of our Caribbean family, was hit by an absolutely devastating earthquake.

But already the cynics’ chorus is tuning up.

On Thursday (two days after), The Smoking Gun website launched a salvo with an article entitled ‘Wyclef Jean Charity’s Funny Money’, claiming that Jean’s Yele Haiti charity “has enriched the singer.”

They based their charges on an assessment of Yele’s tax returns and wrote:

As seen on the following pages from the foundation’s 2006 tax return, the group paid $31,200 in rent to Platinum Sound, a Manhattan recording studio owned by Jean and Jerry Duplessis, who, like Jean, is a foundation board member. A $31,200 rent payment was also made in 2007 to Platinum Sound. The rent, tax returns assure, “is priced below market value.” The recording studio also was paid $100,000 in 2006 for the “musical performance services of Wyclef Jean at a benefit concert.” That six-figure payout, the tax return noted, “was substantially less than market value.” The return, of course, does not address why Jean needed to be paid to perform at his own charity’s fundraiser. But the largest 2006 payout–a whopping $250,000–went to Telemax, S.A., a for-profit Haiti company in which Jean and Duplessis were said to “own a controlling interest.” The money covered “pre-purchased…TV airtime and production services” that were part of the foundation’s “outreach efforts” in Haiti.

Wyclef of course, hit back on his return from Haiti, where he has been digging bodies out of the rubble and so on, in the video posted at top, where he gave answers to the questions raised by TSG.

Chief was the claim that he had used Yele Haiti to enrich himself, as claimed by TSG, based on the $100 000 payout in 06 for the charity concert. Wyclef makes it clear this payment was not for himself but for production costs:

“Whatever show you’re doing, there’s what’s called production for the show. You can’t do a show without production. You need lights, you need a stage. Where’s the band going to come from? You need a manager, you need a tour manager. All of these things have to be accounted for.”

Which to us here at Islandista seems like a pretty reasonable explanation. As we look at the evidence, it seems the only thing Yele has been ‘guilty’ of is being late with their accounting – and not being a professional charity that has been in the ‘charity business’ for a long time, this is understandable.

Even leading charity ranking site, Charity Navigator, which is itself a bit suspicious of Yele, admitted that “charities are often not especially timely in filing these documents.”

They also went on to note that some 69% of Yele’s funds goes to program expenses (this is as opposed to administrative overhead costs), though they pointed out that their “research shows the most efficient charities spend at least 75%”.

As far as we can see it, the situation is this. Yele Haiti is a relatively new charity organisation and may not be run by people who are in the professional charity business, hence it has a surfeit of enthusiasm and a deficit of efficiency. It needs to improve its administrative and accounting practices, certainly but it does not deserve the accusations and allegations being made of it, especially at a time like this.

And especially when Wyclef, as Haiti’s most famous son, has the influence and native contacts to do things in Haiti that other NGOs don’t.

Interestingly enough, several experts have written about this same problem which charities often face – that is, people questioning their effectiveness, using overhead expenses as the ONLY measure.

While that is an easy indicator, it cannot be the only measure of whether a charity is doing good work.

By Me

island ~ ista
From Latin -ista via Portuguese -ista
one who follows a principle; an adept.

As an islandista I live, embody, exude the spirit of the Caribbean islands.

One reply on “UPDATED: Wyclef under attack: doubts raised about Yele Haiti”

I left one message but forgot to thank you for making it possible for so many to give with the donating of $5.00 made available to all of us. its v. hard wanting to help and not feeling like we could make a difference. but you showed us that we can make a very big difference $5.00 at a time..thank you for being so realistic……….god bless every area of your life, sincerely , Connie B. (wi.)

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