Liberia: More Than Me Addresses Inaccurate Tax Returns, Loses 2 Board Members, Has Funds Suspended by Donor
|Liberia: The More Than Me Academy in Monrovia, Liberia. (Kathleen Flynn, special to ProPublica)|
The charity, featured in a ProPublica investigation and documentary, misreported contributions to the IRS.
In the wake of a ProPublica investigation into More Than Me, the charity scrambled this week to answer questions about inaccuracies in its tax returns. One of its largest donors suspended funding, citing a violation of trust. And the charity confirmed another board member has resigned, as well as a member of its Liberian advisory board.
The story and documentary showed how the American charity, which set out to save Liberian girls from sexual exploitation, missed opportunities to prevent the rape of its students by a key employee who had AIDS when he died. The charity has since said it will provide private, schoolwide HIV testing for students at its academy. Officials issued an apology, for the first time acknowledging they failed the girls who were raped, and announced two independent audits.
In Liberia, where a multi-agency government investigation is underway, other journalism outlets are asking their own questions, adding to the pressure on the charity. The calls for accountability are intense, but so are pleas from the students of More Than Me for their academy to remain open.
The Novo Foundation, run by the son and daughter-in-law of Warren Buffett, said Wednesday that it recognizes the need to continue to provide for these girls, but it will find a way to do so while suspending the $330,000, three-year general operating grant it approved last year.
“We are working around the clock in deep exploration with organizations and networks on the ground to understand how we can support their efforts to secure the long-term solution that the girls and community deserve,” said foundation spokesman Joe Voeller.
He said the foundation’s grant-making is “predicated on a relationship of deep trust with our partners. … We expected the same level of transparency and honesty from More Than Me as well, but now see clearly that we did not receive it.”
He said that the foundation’s review of ProPublica’s reporting, and subsequent conversations with stakeholders, “make it clear that we did not receive a full or accurate picture of the multiple allegations against the organization, its response to those allegations, or needs that remained. The question you raise about (IRS) filings only adds to those concerns.”
Those questions involve $625,000 worth of contributions the charity reported to the IRS, but did not actually receive, and the fact that it regularly submits returns to the IRS based on unaudited financial information.