‘Church funds mismanaged’
Date: 13 Sep 2019
New Apostolic Church accused of refusing to make public a report
PROMINENT New Apostolic Church (NAC) members spent tithes buying properties and assets for themselves, two whistle blowers have alleged.
But the church had refused to release to members the findings of an investigation despite promising it would do so, they said.
In response to an investigation, the NAC has admitted that a forensic investigation into its financials recommended among others, the tightening of controls and that action be taken against individuals.
A senior official in the finance department, who was implicated in the report, had resigned before it could take action, and the church did not report the alleged financial mismanagement to police, as it had to consider, “among others, the merits of a case, the likelihood of success, the cost of litigation, the likelihood of harm or damage that litigation may cause to the image of the church,” according to its advocate Mervyn Doralingo.
The alleged misuse of funds occurred prior to the amalgamation of NAC regions within Southern Africa about three years ago.
Congregant Andre Oosthuizen, who previously served as a Shepherd in the Silverton congregation in Pretoria, said he had continuously pestered the church for answers following the investigation.
“After the districts joined into the new structure, we were all promised that a forensic investigation would be undertaken and the results would be made known to the entire congregation. The investigation was completed a few years ago but for some reason, it’s being kept secret,” Oosthuizen said.
Those implicated were not brought to book, Oosthuizen said.
Oosthuizen said by not acting against those implicated, the church was trying to protect individuals and hide wrongdoing.
Another congregant, who asked not to be identified for fear of victimisation, said he had viewed the church’s financial statements.
“I had requested to see the report but was not allowed to see the final report. After pushing I was allowed to see financial statements. There it was clear funds were leaving the church’s accounts for no clear reason and these were significant amounts adding up to about R8 million in irregular expenditure,” he said.
Church funds were used to source large loans to purchase properties and some of those implicated had sold private property in order to pay back the money, he alleged.
After weeks of back and forth between the Cape Times and the NAC, it would not share the report, saying it would only do so if ordered by a court of law.
Doralingo said a forensic investigation had been instituted in or around 2016 after the international office of the church was among others concerned about the financial struggles of the church in Johannesburg.
“The report, among others, recommended the tightening of controls and that action be taken against individuals. Although the Joburg church at the time functioned as an entity using it’s own bank accounts, the newly established entity has an interest in the affairs of the former church due to continuing contracts and other legal obligations,” Doralingo said.
While Doralingo said recommendations contained in the report were meant to serve as a “guide” for future conduct, it was never intended for use by outsiders. The report was shared with the leaders and discussed in a broadcast open to all members of the church in 2016, he said.
Asked whether action was taken against the official in the finance department, Doralingo said: “When a preliminary report fingered (the official), he was confronted with the preliminary findings and allegations and was suspended from the employ of the church while the investigation was continuing. (He) resigned from the employ of the church before a charge sheet could be served and disciplinary action taken against him.”
Asked about individuals implicated in the report either being asked to return funds or face litigation, Doralingo said: “While the church has put procedures in place to ensure that church funds are not applied for personal use, that if it is found to be the case, these funds must be returned.
“The reference to the church ‘not being likely to litigate’ should not be quoted and/or understood out of context. If appropriate, and after consideration of among others, the merits of a case, the likelihood of success, the cost of litigation, the likelihood of harm or damage that litigation may cause to the image of the church etc, a decision to litigate might well result. Where lost monies can be recovered through other less costly methods, these methods will be preferred”.
He however would not say whether this was done.
“As much as the church has to be responsible in the manner it deals with the church funds, the church must also act responsibly in disclosing information. Your question ‘whether the litigation related to the irregular use of church funds…’ is not in the church’s view important and/or relevant and/or necessary for media reporting purposes and the church will not disclose this detail, unless it is required to do so in terms of the law or a court order.”
According to Doralingo, measures have been put in place to ensure that the recommendations of the report are actioned.
In reference to the amount of money involved, Doralingo said: “The reference to R8m in the financial statements refers to the operating deficit (loss) which results from funding to external countries and salaries paid.”