Saturday, January 16, 2010

Wyclef Jean: Haiti donations might have been hasty

You can't deny Wyclef Jean's good intentions - he's down in Haiti right now, helping the relief effort.

Slightly less laudable, though, is his pushing of his Yele Haiti charity. It's been shady in the past, explains The Smoking Gun, and Gawker reports that it's not the best placed organisation to be picking up donations right now:

[L]arge first-responders usually have the resources to move money quickly to where it's needed, either by virtue of prepositioned disaster fund, large pools of money that they can shift among accounts as circumstances warrant, or access to a bridge loan to get money flowing. Yele Haiti, which as of 2007 had no paid staffers and currently, according to the source, has one employee who works out of the kitchen in Jean's Manhattan recording studio, has no such capacity. So it can spend whatever money it has on hand—at the end of 2007, it had roughly $500,000 in cash and liabilities of more than $900,000—but after that it has to wait for any donations made over the last three days to actually clear and show up in its bank account. And again, because it is a small player and uses a small firm to process its online donations, the source says, that process can take "two weeks to a month."

It might not be such a major problem - after all, there will still be needs for reconstruction in Haiti in a month - was Jean not pitching Yele Haiti as part of the instant relief effort. According to MTV, Jean has managed to bark up a million dollars from his campaigning - that's a million dollars that the larger groups could be using right now; a million dollars redirected to the wrong place at the wrong time.

Oh, and there's more:
Yele Haiti is will be one of the beneficiaries of George Clooney's "Hope for Haiti" telethon to be broadcast next week, and "there's no reason for that," the source says.

Yele Haiti claim that their connections in Haiti make them better-placed to distribute aid in a hurry - which isn't implausible - and say that they have achieved success in the 2004 Tropical Storm and 2008 food crises.

They even try to explain away the dubious financial organisation, including this:
Another strange Yele Haiti expense—$100,000 to Platinum Sound in 2006 as a performance fee for Jean playing a fundraiser in Monte Carlo—included payments for musicians and production costs, Locke says. Only $25,000 or so, he says, accounted for Jean's fee.

Ah, right. So Jean only pocketed twenty-five grand for playing for his own charity; not four times that amount. That's... alright... then.