Oxfam opacity raises suspicions

Theodore Dalrymple

15 April 2016 | Ideas@TheCentre

Oxfam opacity raises suspicionsI happened the other day to hear a senior Oxfam Australia official speaking on the radio about the Panama Papers.

I thought it worthwhile subsequently to look up Oxfam’s annual accounts, which seemed to me in the event to be less than fully transparent, and sometimes laced with managerial language that raised my suspicions.

Oxfam’s largest donor here by far was the Australian government, which contributed slightly more than 26% of its total income — almost enough to cover the nearly 29% of its income it expended on raising funds.

It spent $3 million last year on long-service leave of its senior employees. We learn that remuneration for ‘key management personnel’ (number unspecified) rose by 16% between 2014 and 2015, from $821,000 to $952,000. (The head of Oxfam UK is paid somewhat over $200,000 a year.) No explanation for the rise is offered, but:

The performance of the Group depends upon the quality and commitment of its senior management. To prosper, the Group must attract, motivate and retain highly skilled and committed executives… 

I came across an advertisement for a job at Oxfam. Among the selection criteria for the successful candidate were the follows:

Experience in defining use cases and business rules and processes with a strong engagement of customer groups…

and

Experience in successfully mapping and documenting business and technical requirements, process diagrams, scenarios, and test plans based on conversations with the technical team and customers…

The successful candidate will be paid $75,783 plus superannuation and ‘access to generous NFP tax concessions (specifically, a salary packaging scheme offering up to $18,450 of your salary tax free)’.

Could this be tax avoidance? Surely not. I may be behind the times, but Oxfam doesn’t sound much like charity to me, more like a government-subsidised scheme for those who work in it.

Theodore Dalrymple is the Centre for Independent Studies 2016 Scholar-in-Residence, and will deliver a lecture on why ‘Society is Broken’ at the Sydney Opera House on April 18, and a lecture in Melbourne on April 21. Find more information at our Events page.

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