Some Filipino organizations in the Greater Toronto Area come and go like smoke, but those that continue are thriving with significant wins.
Three major Filipino non-profit organizations that fit the description stand out: they are Mississauga’s Kalayaan Cultural Community Centre (KCCC), founded in 1983, the Markham Federation of Filipino Canadians (MFFC) founded in 1989, and the Filipino Centre Toronto (FCT) founded in 2000.
Each organization owns a commercial unit where official business and social events take place and where volunteers offer free services like free painting classes, tax preparation, assistance to Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), free library as well as promotion of educational and recreational programs.
These organizations may receive funds from the federal and provincial governments in the form of grants. They generally earn revenue from renting space and holding fundraising functions.
It is widely known that the most cash-rich organization is FCT, after selling its three-story office building in downtown Toronto for $5.9-million and then purchased a commercial unit in Scarborough as its new venue. This achievement is laudable since it indicates a healthy balance sheet.
Obviously, all three organizations have reached a stage of maturity in which formal business processes and professional conduct ought to be the norm following decades of operation.
To gauge how well-oiled they are, we focused on how they coordinate a strategy for managing issues of Governance, Risk management, and Compliance with regulatory requirements (GRC).
For a backgrounder, Webopedia (Forrest Stroud) provides the three pillars of GRC like this:
- Governance – the effective ethical management of an organization by its head or management personnel. This means, for example, that roles and responsibilities are documented, policy, procedures and guidelines are defined, and controls exist for payables/receivables, hiring, cash management, and financial review and reporting.
- Risk – the ability to effectively and cost-effectively mitigate risks that can hinder an organization’s operations or ability to remain consistent in its role of community building and social amelioration. This means, for example, that an inventory of physical assets must be conducted periodically to counter the risk of loss, a regular audit of financial transactions must be performed at least annually to prevent or limit financial and operational risk, and taking insurance against the risk of fire and legal liability.
- Compliance – an organization’s conformance with regulatory requirements for business operations, data retention, and other business practices. This means that tax and banking laws must be observed and that accounting principles and best practices for non-profit organizations are followed. (Individuals caught under-reporting proceeds from a non-profit organization could face stiff penalties and jail time.)
A simple assessment of the business environment and financial management at FCT, MFFC, and KCCC reveals the following:
KCCC publishes a newsletter that informs members of various programs, social events, and financial status. It also distributes to its staff a Handbook of Policies and Procedures to ensure that guidelines and best practices are observed. Discussion of its Annual Financial Statement takes place at the Annual General Meeting.
Based on the information made available to us, it is apparent that KCCC follows a strategy to manage GRC. An easy explanation for this development is the fact that KCCC had two presidents who were accountants and one president who was a retired lawyer.
MFFC publishes a newsletter to update its members of significant events and consistently report a detailed financial statement at the Annual General Meeting. Their current president is an accountant. A policy and procedures handbook is in the process of development.
FCT might be the richest community organization in the GTA but it has no newsletter, no handbook on policy and procedures, and has not produced any detailed financial statements since 2016, although its website claims that it offers “financial advice and service to anyone who needs it.”
We hope that the executives and board of directors would open their heart and mind to the crying need for a detailed financial statement even only for 2016, if they cannot produce final and audited financial statements for 2017, 2018, and 2019.
Here are FCT accountable and responsible persons:
Efren de Villa – Chairman, Mary Ann San Juan – President & CEO, Theresa Lumanlan – Vice President, Judith Gonzales – Secretary, Wendy Arena – Treasurer,
Nenette de Villa, Vicky Santiago, Mercy Maliglig, Nita Rejdik, Philip Beloso, Frank Cruzet, Mhel Galeon, Alvine Marasigan Flor, Jerom Peralta, Steffie Stephens, Lolit Tablang, Corazon Laraya Coutts, Priscilla Tumulak
Relevant to the issue of FCT’s failure to issue financial reports for the last four years (2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019) a post appeared on the Facebook page of the University of the Philippines Alumni Association-Toronto. The posting was a comment from Guy Camacho (BS Military Science, PMA; MS Math., UP-Diliman, and Controller, Philippine Air Force).
We are reprinting the writer’s comment with his permission:
My impression in most of these controversies which are becoming a trademark to overseas Filipino organizations is that, often times, they are caused by shoddy paperwork, inaccurate bookkeeping and non-avoidance of ‘conflict of interest’ situations.
Here are my recommendations to avoid, if not to mitigate, such future occurrences:
First, Filipino organizations must retain:
- a) Legal counsels (at least a lawyer by training)
- b) Certified accountants (fully Ontario certified)
- c) Official Spokespersons / Media writer
… who are, preferably, non-members of the present board, or the immediate past board, in order to avoid conflicts of interest.
- a) Minutes of Board Meetings and Resolutions must be kept meticulously, and signed/dated accordingly by the Corporate Secretary and the Chairmen and / or President.
- b) Financial Statements must be attested by the Certified Accountant within 30 days of closing the fiscal year.
- c) The FSs (Balance Sheet, Cash Flow Operations, and Bank Statements) must be available to the members at the earliest General Meeting.
In serious issues and controversies, the first reaction of the Board should be to create a Board of Mediating Inspectors (B.M.I.), who are non-members of the organization, and whose task is to mediate for an amicable settlement between the organization and the ‘complaining party.’
The Board shall authorize the members of the B.M.I. full access to all the organizations’ Minutes of Meetings, Board Resolutions and Financial Statements.
Note: This particular recommendation should be included in the By-Laws of the Constitution of the organization.
An Open Letter to the Filipino Centre Toronto (FCT) Executive Officers and Board of Directors, published in Atin Ito, May print edition and online
Is FCT (Filipino Centre Toronto) Board In Denial?, published in Atin Ito, September print edition and online
I Beg You To Stop Destroying Your Community, published in Atin Ito online
FCT controversy: The $678K Question — Why has it taken 3 years with no resolution in sight?, published in the The Philippine Reporter, used with permission from Hermie Garcia
By Socrates Moreno