The Department of Internal Affairs and the Ministry of Education are looking into allegations of financial mismanagement in charities linked to two Auckland schools – including claims ministry money has been spent on cars, jewellery and travel.
Stuff understands the allegations have been made by a former worker at the charities.
Both Internal Affairs’ charities watchdog and the Education Ministry have confirmed they’re looking into the allegations to determine whether to launch an investigation.
The charities are the Islamic Educational and Dawah Trust, which is connected to Al-Madinah School, and the Zayed Bin Sultan Al-Nahayan Charitable and Humanitarian Foundation, which is connected to Zayed College for Girls.
A third charity, Al-Waqf for Dawah and Taaleem New Zealand Trust, is not connected to the schools but is linked to the allegations.
“The matter is under consideration,” Stephen Reilly said, general manager of Charities Services.
“As is our regular practice, we won’t be making any further comment until these regulatory matters are concluded.”
One of the trusts is linked to Al-Madinah School in M?ngere
Stuff has obtained a 32-page signed statutory declaration to the Charities Services, which consists of a detailed complaint, documents and screenshots of bank transfers.
In that declaration, the whistleblower – who Stuff has chosen not to name – alleges ministry funding intended for the two, state-integrated Muslim schools in Mangere has been spent on personal travel, cars, jewellery, residential building work and been wired overseas.
In one case, it’s alleged a $12,000 hardship loan was given to a family member of someone connected to the trust and went towards a “luxury car”.
He claims financial mismanagement goes back years and has been covered by “misleading information” reported to Charities Services.
Zayed College for Girls in Mangere is linked to one of the three trusts.
In response to request for comment, Stuff received a letter from a barrister acting on behalf of the Zayed Bin Sultan Al-Nahayan Charitable and Humanitarian Trust.
“Our categorically [sic] denies that there is any investigation by Ministry of Education or the Charities Services or any regulatory body, whatsoever,” the letter said.
Acting on behalf of all three trusts, the same lawyer also wrote to the whistleblower, demanding the retraction of all correspondence to third parties about the charities.
The other two charities have not responded to inquiries from Stuff.
Katrina Casey from the Ministry of Education says they were made aware of the allegations almost two weeks ago and has received information from the complainant, and a second person linked to the charities.
She said the ministry was assessing that information and could not comment further.
The allegations relate to the charities, and not the schools themselves. Their income includes private funding – such as donations – as well as taxpayer funding.
Last year, Al-Madinah’s board of trustees was dissolved following allegations of financial mismanagement and employment problems.
A commissioner was brought in to replace the board. One of his roles was “assessing board financial management”, the ministry said at the time.
Prior to that, the ministry had been supporting Al-Madinah School for just over two years after receiving several complaints about employment issues, financial mismanagement and issues with recruitment.
A spokeswoman for Education Minister Chris Hipkins would not comment on whether he had been alerted to the allegations, but said he was “aware that the ministry has been supporting the school [Al-Madinah] for a number of years.”