A colleague recently lamented the end of charitable work after the “attack” the sector sustained following the events of September 11. I diasgree with this line of analysis which overlooks a number of facts.
Of course, every war has its victims and some charitable organizations have suffered in the last few years. Some donors decided to exercise caution and stayed away from such organizations. Many more, however, have adopted a more careful approach and continue to give to charity.
Criticism was never leveled against charitable work itself but against the set-up where lenient laws allowed organizations that were no more than commercial ventures geared for personal profit to exist and turned a blind eye to the channeling of funds to support terrorism, in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. Indeed, policemen have uncovered charity receipts amongst the rubble of terrorist hideouts. Claims that aid was reaching those most in need are, simply, untrue.
Let us not forget that we have faced more terrorist attacks than western countries and thwarted even more. Faced with the most serious threat to our country in fifty years, how are we not to worry about the funding of terrorist groups? In this day and age, those who give generously should inquire how their donation will be spent. This will ensure the money is well spent and serve the interest of society as a whole.
Unfortunately, when funds are left unsupervised, greed will prevail. Hundreds of millions of Saudi Riyals earmarked for charity have been misspent on a number of ventures such as websites, pamphlets and organizations. Funds have also been spent fraudulently. An oral agreement is simply not enough for 300 million Riyals ($80 million) to be transferred to a personal account under the pretext they will be spent wisely.
Charities have existed for sometime now. Many were regulated by the government and operated far from politics and self-publicity with no complaints. Regulating the charity sector is not wrong. On the contrary, the government needs to increase its monitoring of how funds are being spent.
Trust is not enough. Transparency and accountability are required in the voluntary sector and necessary for an organization to achieve its goals.
It is our duty to help those most in need, those without food, shelter or medicine in a clear and responsible manner.