German Charity's Mounting Woes UNICEF Loses Vital Seal of Approval

UNICEF's German committee has had a rough few months. First the chairwoman and CEO resigned over a funding mismanagement scandal, now it has lost a vital charity seal of approval.  

UNICEF has lost the DZI seal of approval.

UNICEF has lost the DZI seal of approval.

The German committee of United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has lost a vital charity seal of approval from a national ratings agency. The German Central Institute for Social Issues (DZI), which assesses the probity of charities, has said it will not recommend donations to UNICEF because of the ongoing problems at the charity.

The decision comes just weeks after the committee's chairwoman, Heide Simonis, and chief executive, Dietrich Garlichs, resigned amid a scandal about commissions paid to expensive fund-raising consultants and about the secrecy surrounding the payments.

The DZI has called for a management shake-up at the Cologne-based committee so that similar mistakes do not occur in the future. Germany's committee is one of 37 around the world which collect donations for aid projects run by UNICEF.

The DZI seal of approval is seen as proof that a charity is serious, transparent and uses donations wisely. UNICEF can reapply for the seal next year. But the decision is another blow to the organization which has already seen 5,000 of its 200,000 registered supporters cancel their contributions.

The crisis began after it emerged that donations had been used to pay exorbitant fees to fund-raisers, often without previous written agreements. In one case a former employee was paid around €800 a day while another fund-raiser earned fees totalling €191,000. Simons, a former Social Democrat politician, resigned on Feb. 2 after blowing the whistle on the funding mismanagement. Longstanding CEO Dietrich Garlichs offered his resignation shortly afterwards.

The interim chairman Reinhard Schlagintweit, who is in charge until a new board is elected on April 10, said that the DZI decision had been "a blow," adding: "We weren't expecting this." But he admitted that serious mistakes had been made. "We are learning from those mistakes and restructuring the way we work." The organization has already been audited by KPMG, which suggested numerous improvements.

In a statement released on Tuesday, UNICEF headquarters said that it was "concerned about the loss of public confidence that has resulted from questions about the National Committee's business practices." It added that it would "provide assistance to the National Committee to rapidly implement the changes that KPMG has recommended."



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