ECFA Report: Leaders of Gospel for Asia Claim Millions Went to Hong Kong Bank Instead of Indian Field Ministries

A question Gospel for Asia has steadfastly refused to address is the location of nearly $130 million in donor funds claimed in U.S. audits to have been sent to India. What shows up in Indian public records doesn’t match what is claimed on U.S. audits. The report of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability’s investigation into financial matters at GFA reveal a new claim by GFA about at least some of those dollars, but ultimately leaves the matter unanswered.

Previously, donors have told me that GFA leaders said I had missed funds sent to Indian states other than Kerala. Reviewing the FC-6 forms of all other Indian states, I came to a dead end. No other state records reported the receipt of any funds from the U.S. GFA office to any known GFA affiliate. I have also heard that GFA claims to send funds to two other unnamed charities in India. However, GFA has refused to provide any specifics.

In the GFA report, another claim is made:

15. Alleged missing funds according to Indian FC6 forms. ECFA received allegations that a significant amount of funds were missing based on attempts to reconcile GFA’s audited financial statements and field partner’s Indian FC6 forms. ECFA reviewed this matter to determine compliance with ECFA Standard 4. On July 20, GFA staff provided ECFA with a reconciliation of these amounts, which reflected a transfer of $29,300,000 to a GFA India account in Hong Kong. GFA staff reported that this transfer was not required to be reported on Indian FC6 forms and that this amount along with fiscal year timing differences led to the allegations of significant missing funds.

The way this paragraph is written gives me the impression that ECFA took GFA’s word that these funds did not have to be reported in India. This assumption is problematic and raises other troubling questions. GFA told the ECFA that just over $29 million which GFA claimed in their American audit was sent to GFA India actually went to a GFA India account in Hong Kong.

I do not know India law well enough to express an confident opinion on this claim. I don’t accept GFA’s claim at face value. While I intend to look into it, the claim raises additional questions. Since the funds were sent to GFA India for use in India, why would those funds be exempt from reporting? If GFA uses those funds in India as promised to donors and claimed in the American audit, eventually the money would have to be reported to the Indian government via the FC-6 forms. No matter where the money is parked once it leaves the donor, it will eventually need to be documented in India as a foreign contribution, if indeed it is ever sent to India. Over eight years, the best estimate I have seen is that $128 million is not accounted for. The ECFA investigation apparently only looked into the activities in one calendar year.

The claim about fiscal year timing differences is a distraction. Since the FC-6 forms requires a precise date of receipt to be reported, Jason Watkins and I have been able to take the timing of transfers into account.

That’s it. the ECFA investigators were not told stories about other Indian organizations receiving GFA funds. Apparently, there were no claims about sending money to other states in India. Staff and leaders who provided these spurious explanations to staff and donors did not provide the same reasons to the ECFA.

Just after being terminated from ECFA membership, GFA told the public that “no findings of money missing” came from the ECFA investigation. Having the ECFA report, it is clear that ECFA did not thoroughly examine multiple years of discrepancies between what GFA said they sent to India and what was reported in India to the government. Furthermore, the ECFA apparently took GFA’s word that funds deposited in Hong Kong satisfied GFA’s claim that those funds went to GFA India and did not require reporting to the Indian government. ECFA did not independently verify this claim.

In any case, I hope that staff and donors can now put to rest the false stories advanced by some within GFA (i.e., money sent to other states or other ministries) and concentrate on the big secret GFA has been protecting for months. I challenge GFA to produce chapter and verse in Indian law which exempts foreign contributions from disclosure if those funds are first deposited to banks outside of India. GFA will also need to provide documentation about the large and growing discrepancies over the past decade.

 

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