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Monday, October 27, 2014

HCCEF Bishop's Dinner Taking Money Out of Student's Pockets

Most people attending the annual Halton Catholic Children's Education Foundation "Evening With Bishop Crosby" fundraiser would be unaware of the workings and history of the HCDSB's latest charity. The charity was established in the late 1990's and was named The Foundation for Excellence in Catholic Education (FECE). It was the subject of a Canada Revenue audit after a complaint was made regarding financial improprieties and according to records from the CRA and HCDSB became "dormant" after the audit until years later when Director Mike Pautler decided in 2011 the Board needed a new charity. After being refused by the CRA for a third charity Pautler was allowed to rename the old charity The Halton Catholic Children's Education Foundation (HCCEF). Prior to the name change FECE had $203,193 which it transferred directly to the Halton Catholic District School Board thus stripping the old charity of any money before it could be transferred to the new charity the HCCEF. When the HCCEF was finally up and running it has $0 dollars. A source tells HCCEF NEWS that when officials of the HCCEF were asked where the money went when transferred to the HCDSB the answer was "no one knows". What is known is that the former FECE now renamed the HCCEF was created for the sole purpose of helping needy students.

The money the HCCEF has raised has come primarily from elementary and secondary schools in the system and uses Student Generated Funds (SGFs) from activities like civvies days to buy entire tables for the charity's annual fundraiser an "Evening with Bishop Crosby" held in Oakville every year. According to current Ministry Of Education Fundraising Guidelines it states;

"Fundraising has a designated purpose and funds are used for that purpose" and "that Board staff or volunteers cannot benefit materially or financially from the fundraising activity". 

Legally, Student Generated Funds are monies raised from fundraising by a school by taking money from its students. The schools are supposed to tell the students very clearly what they are taking and using the money for and that it is completely voluntary. The problem is they don't. Except for the Principal, most students and staff have no idea what SGF's are spent on let alone a fancy dinner in Oakville for the Bishop and herein lies the problem. Should a board charity be taking money out of schools for the purpose of giving it back to needy students when the schools themselves are perfectly capable of helping their own needy students without a middleman? Maybe yes maybe no. If they did return all the money back to the schools and clearly showed this in publicly available financial reports then maybe yes. To date all the HCCEF seems able to do is collect the money and stockpile it for a rainy day. The HCCEF seems incapable of listing exactly how many needy students they actually helped or how much money they gave out to needy students, their primary function and sole reason for existence. Each year principals are contacted by a senior administrator in the HCDSB and asked to support the charity by purchasing a table for 10. The tables are usually filled with school staff, administration, parent council members and invited students. This year each ticket is $75 a table of ten $750

If you feel comfortable taking a free ticket to the Bishop's Dinner that was bought with SGF's then this event is for you but be informed that KPMG the auditors of the HCCEF, have stated that the financial records of the HCCEF are incomplete and in such a state as they cannot satisfactorily audit and verify the HCCEF's financial statements.  

Bottom line - If an internationally recognized auditor can't figure out where the money from the HCCEF has gone how could anyone else be expected to?

As always the HCDSB NEWS invites your corrections, comments and criticisms and any replies received from people or institutions mentioned in any article will be published in full.




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