A recent report by Bill Sizemore in the Virginian-Pilot on Rev. Pat Robertson's charity, Operation Blessing International Relief & Development Corp. focused on the issues of proselytizing and hiring discrimination, but there are other aspects of this charity that make it an interesting case study in accountability. Looking at the organization's Form 990s for 2003 and 2004 prompts some other observations:
- The organization's almost total reliance on in-kind rather than cash contributions
- Incomplete disclosure of program expenditures
- Inadequate spending on accountability and stewardship
- Very high management salaries
- Financial reports delayed or unavailable on line
These concerns contrast with the overall positive findings of the Wall Watcher's Ministry Watch, and Where Most Needed is checking to determine their response to these concerns.
- The most glaring issue with Operation Blessing is the fact that more than 90% of the operations donations are in the form of in-kind donations, not cash. So that rather than being a $200 million operation, Operation Blessing is really only a modest $10 million cash operation, with a staff of only 40 in 2004.
- Operation Blessing does not break out the expenditures for its various program activities. It describes 4 main program areas, but lumps them all together in a single program total. Again, this gives a misleading impression that the organization engages in extensive "ministry" activities, whereas in reality it is mainly involved in distribution of material.
- Salary expenditure for non-officer "management and general" personnel appears to be grossly inadequate for an organization of this size distributing in-kind goods. The stewardship requirements for in-kind distribution are considerable, if only to prevent diversion of donated goods to commercial purposes, and there cannot possibly be handled with $21,000 in staff salaries as shown in the FY 2004 Form 990. Recent news stories report that it is the practice of Operation Blessing to swap donated commodities for other consumer food products, which increases the risk of diversion and thus the need for more monitoring.
- The salary for COO William Horan is repored at $167,425 for 2004, but other employees paid by The Christian Broadcasting Network, Inc. are: Michael D. Little ($266,458), Randy Morell ($133, 246) and Gordon P. Robertson ($246,610) (this is Rev. Pat Robertson's son). These salaries appear high for an organization primarily engaged in distribution of donated goods. It is also misleading to have salaries paid by another organization, because it gives a misleading impression of the "efficiency" of the charity.
- Finally, the figures reported are from 2004, because the 2005 figures are not available on-line, either from Operation Blessing or on Guidestar. The organization's fiscal year ends in March, so the 2005 figures should be available now, nearly 10 months after the end of the fiscal year.