As Cold As Charity

By David

I can’t remember ever posting two Swimwatch stories on consecutive days. But the story about Swimming New Zealand being deregistered as a charity is too important to ignore. I have now had time to read the Charities Board’s decision. It is fantastic. If you thought Swimwatch might be a little tough on Swimming New Zealand; if you felt any sympathy for Layton, Renford, Villanueva and Lyles – you must read this report. David Wright is as soft as Mary Poppins compared to the management tragedy described by the Charities Board. For example:

Paragraph Four says – “it is in the public interest that Swimming New Zealand be removed from the Charities register.” Then the document effectively says that SNZ continued inclusion would diminish public trust and confidence in the charitable sector. Wow, well done Layton; great job Renford – you have just alienated a whole sector of New Zealand business. Mike Byrne and Murray Coulter never managed to scale those dizzy heights. How is it possible that in just over a year the current Board and management have turned swimming into a leper, capable of diminishing public trust and confidence in the charitable sector? And some of you may have thought Swimwatch was making this up. No we were not.

Paragraph Six says the new Constitution submitted in July 2012 contained “an amendment to SNZ’s stated purposes.” There is nothing unusual in this except as it reflects on what is to follow in Paragraphs Seven and Eight.

Paragraph Seven reveals that further amendments made to the new Swimming New Zealand Constitution in October 2012 were not provided to the Charities service. The law, of course, demands that all alterations to the Constitution are submitted to the Charities Board.

Paragraph Eight says that the new Swimming New Zealand Constitution makes it clear that;  “The primary object of SNZ is to support the growth and performance of the sport of competitive swimming, from entry level club competitive swimmers to elite High Performance athletes.”

Paragraph Ten is central and says that a Notice of Intent to remove was sent to Swimming New Zealand on the 11 November 2013 (12 months ago). I do wonder how widely that threat was discussed. I wonder if Sport New Zealand were even told. My bet is that Swimming New Zealand sat on it. Transmitting bad news is not their strong suit.

Paragraph Eleven tells me that Swimming New Zealand submitted an objection on 14 January 2014.

Paragraph Twelve describes the following bit of stunning management. The Charities Services sent a confirmation of intent to remove on 28 March 2014 and gave Swimming New Zealand till 15 May 2014 to respond. No response was received. A reminder was sent on 10 June 2014 advising of a final decision after 4 July 2014. No response has been received.

Surely this borders on criminal negligence. The management and Board have failed in their duty to do the best thing for the organization. It seems that the scope of their responsibility is beyond them – they have failed to considered the long-term future and have embroiled themselves in operational considerations such as the Millennium Institute and neglected the true governance of the sport. It is a litany of incompetence that should not be allowed to pass unpunished.

Paragraph Twenty-eight is important and explains the distinction between a charitable purpose that is part of the organization’s purposeful plan and a charitable purpose that is hypocritically tacked on to support a different plan. There appears to be little doubt which camp the authorities put Swimming New Zealand.

Paragraph Thirty-two is the clause around which deregistration revolves. It says, “the promotion of amateur sports is only charitable if it is a means to pursue a charitable purpose. … contrasted with a purpose to promote sports as an end itself.”

Paragraph Forty-one describes why the new Swimming New Zealand fails to pass the charity’s test. It says, “It becomes an issue when an organization’s resources are geared towards the pursuit of excellence to the detriment of other either less skilled or less competitive members because in practice, benefits are being unreasonably restricted to a much narrower section of the public.”

Paragraph Fifty-three then does exactly what Swimwatch has been doing with the Swimming New Zealand accounts. It dissects the accounts and highlights the bloated and embarrassing proportion spent on High Performance and details the number of staff employed in this area.

Paragraph Fifty-five reaches the obvious and unquestionably correct conclusion that the Charities Board does not consider that the promotion of sport at an elite and professional level stands as a general proposition as a means to advance the amateur sport at the learner level. And they are right. The excessive attention to what happens at the Millennium Institute is wrong at every level and is most surely at the expense of the grass roots of the sport.

Paragraph Fifty-eight is a delight. It as near as it can says that whoever drafted the current Constitution had no idea what they were doing and that they totally misunderstood Charity regulations! Let me assure the Charities Board that their regulations are not the only thing this lot don’t understand.

Paragraph Sixty-one specifically cites the 40% expenditure on High Performance staffing and the two High Performance centres as the reason for the deregistration. It seems that while the Regions of Swimming New Zealand may not read the accounts, the Charities Board is not so slow.

And finally Paragraph Sixty-eight says that the Charities Board has a letter from Swimming New Zealand dated the 14 January offering to consider amending the stated purposes of the organization at the Annual General Meeting scheduled for April 2014. Surely that offer is the final insult to the Regions. The Swimming New Zealand Board offered outsiders the prospect of altering the Constitution without the knowledge or approval of the delegates who would be expected to vote on the issue.

So there it is – an unqualified cock-up. Any self-respecting organization would replace those responsible for the information in this post. Any self-respecting executive would resign if this saga became part of their resume.