Hugh Locke, Yele Haiti’s president, says donors can be assured that their money will be well-spent. “I’m confident that anybody who gives money to Yele Haiti for emergency relief can be sure it will be used effectively. We may be a small organization, and there are handicaps. But there are also efficiencies.” Locke says the foundation has already allocated $1.5 million for an airlift due to leave Miami early next week, and is in the process of seeking bridge financing to raise more money as it waits for donations to hit its account.
He dismisses the delay in online donations as a matter of days, and says he’s already taken steps to speed them up. As for text-message donations—that money never hits the account until the person who sent them pays their cell phone bill weeks later, a circumstance that affects charities large and small alike.
“We’ve got a team of 15 people on the ground in Haiti, and a warehouse, and contacts with people in the neighborhood,” Locke says, repeating Yele Haiti’s extensive experience getting food out into dangerous neighborhoods for the UN’s World Food Program after Tropical Storm Jeanne in 2004 and the 2008 world food crisis.
He says the organization’s relationships and knowledge of Porte-au-Prince make it better suited, in some cases, to get relief into the neighborhoods than larger organizations. And he says that the established charities that have sought out Yele Haiti for collaboration—including the World Food Program and Americares—wouldn’t have done so if it couldn’t actually get the job done. “They came to us,” he says, “and not the other way around.”
[2:56 p.m. – 1/15/2010] – Only $1 In Every $5 Of Wyclef’s Yele Charity Goes To Haiti
The Haiti earthquake has already triggered hundreds of thousands of donations to musician Wyclef Jean’s charitable foundation, which expects to raise upwards of $1 million a day in the disaster’s wake.
However, Internal Revenue Service records show the group has a lackluster history of accounting for its finances, and that the organization has paid the performer and his business partner at least $410,000 for rent, production services, and Jean’s appearance at a benefit concert. Though the Wyclef Jean Foundation, which does business as Yele Haiti Foundation, was incorporated 12 years ago–and has been active since that time–the group only first filed tax returns in August 2009.
That month, the foundation provided the IRS with returns covering calendar years 2005, 2006, and 2007–the only periods for which it has publicly provided a glimpse at its financial affairs.
There’s no doubt Wyclef Jean — who has raised $1 million since the Haiti earthquake — wants to help his homeland. But a look at his personal foundation’s finances raises questions about whether it’s wisely managing the donations it’s collecting.
The Smoking Gun took a look at the finances of Yele Haiti, the foundation Wyclef Jean founded to help his homeland—and it’s ugly. Jean founded Yele Haiti in 1998, according to TSG, but didn’t file any tax returns until five month ago, in August 2009. And the returns filed so far—for 2005, 2006, and 2007 only—reveal that Yele directed huge sums of money to commercial entities that Jean and his business partner Jerry Duplessis own stakes in.
The most eye-popping expenditure is $250,000 that the foundation paid in 2006 to Telemax, S.A., a Haitian television company that Jean and Duplessis own a controlling interest in. The payment for “airtime and production services” appears to have been related to a telethon of some sort that Yele Haiti produced in the country—its chalked up to “outreach”—and amounts to one out of every five dollars that the foundation took in that year. The return claims the fees were “below market” and constituted the “most efficient” way for Yele Haiti to conduct outreach.