Tuesday, 28 March 2006

Money laundering

In the years since the World Land Trust has been in existence, the amount of paperwork involved has increased dramatically. When the Trust was launched in 1989 PCs were in their infancy, and electronic communication was still something in the future, and the 'paperless office' was barely a concept. Now less than 20 years on, we are weighed down under a load of paperwork, albeit, often electronic paperwork. New rules and regulations make it increasingly difficult to transfer money to our projects, and this is usually explained by it being to 'prevent money laundering' But part of the problem seems to be that banks increasingly rely on systems, rather than people. Once upon a time, I went to a bank, and saw the manager, and sorted out a transfer. If a Trustee changed, we filled in a form, and added him or her to our bank signatories. But now, everything requires ID papers, copies of electricity bills, copies of passports, and other paperwork, all of which is easily forged. So the net result is that the honest majority now have an enormous amount of paperwork, while the would-be money launderer or criminal of any sort will probably still get away with their crimes, because the pieces of paper needed are easy enough to forge.

It is a situation analogous to the bureaucratic overload that the agricultural agencies such as the UK's DEFRA have introduced. Someone like myself with a handful of sheep, three llamas and a pig has to go through all the expenses of registration and movement orders, while being of minimal risk for animal disease issues, while the people who are most likely to cause the problems are also the ones most likely to ignore the regulations.

So when donors ask about admin costs of a charity, they should be aware of the vast amount of paperwork that we are now require to fill in -- not only that, it keeps changing from year to year. It has now reached such a level, that if a charity appears to have exceptionally low overheads you really need to question if it is complying with all the regulations. Are they registered with the Data protection Act, and in compliance? Are they SORP compliant? Just two areas which many charities fail on.

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