Montanaro, Drama Outreach inquiry by NGOs’ commission

DO Project categorically denies all of the accusations which result from the MaltaToday article

Alan Montanaro with children the NGO he co-founded helps in Cambodia
Alan Montanaro with children the NGO he co-founded helps in Cambodia

MaltaToday has reported the contents of a letter in which the Commissioner for Voluntary Organizations wrote to DO Project about allegations made by a particular disgruntled and troubled individual with a personal agenda. 

The article failed to report the results of the inquiry whereby the Commissioner noted that DO Project was in compliance with the conclusions of his report and “therefore considers the subject in caption closed from my end”.

DO Project categorically denies all of the accusations which result from the article. DO Project was at no point found to have financial shortcomings as the article incorrectly states. All of the organisation’s financial transactions have always been meticulously acknowledged, reported and receipted and the annual financial statements have always been rigorously completed and submitted to the Commissioner. In addition the NGO publishes financial statements on its website in full transparency. 

DO Project confirms that all of the travel expenses to deliver the programme in Cambodia are undertaken personally by volunteers and committee members and no funds go from the NGO to cover these travel expenses. In addition all volunteer groups are made up of trained adults who deliver the developmental drama programme. The role of the NGO committee remains at all times to administer the affairs of the NGO, not to oversee the execution of the developmental drama programme. A trained and qualified individual is designated by the NGO to coordinate the delivery of the programme by each of the volunteer groups. The personal choice of volunteers to travel outside of their voluntary commitments has no bearing on the work of the NGO.

With respect to the statements made by Alan Montanaro mentioned in the article, this refers to a private Whatsapp chat which was brought to the attention of DO Project committee members by the Commissioner for Voluntary Organisations. DO Project feels that these comments were inappropriate and should have been avoided.

However these comments, which were taken out of context, do not in any way represent the work and commitment that Alan Montanaro has undertaken in co-founding this NGO and working tirelessly for the benefit of the hundreds of children which DO Project has assisted over its four years of operations. 

It is highly unfortunate that as a result of false allegations fuelled by vicious personal agendas the hard work of hundreds of individuals for the children in Cambodia is ultimately being put at risk. Despite these attacks DO Project will continue to work for the children whom the NGO and its supporters have so much at heart.

DO Project Team

The most disturbing allegation in your article ‘Serious rebuke for actor who mocked Cambodian kids his charity was helping’ (19 June 2016) relates to what has been described as lack of financial accountability when funds raised were allegedly “not acknowledged receipted or reported” and that I (on behalf of the Committee) admitted that this was clearly the result of an oversight.

This is totally untrue. The fact is that since the Commissioner in his investigation did not disclose his source or a concrete example of such failure, our obvious response to an allegation of that sort was that if there ever was anyone who did not get a receipt that must have clearly been an oversight.

This is not the same as saying that there actually was an oversight. The point is that in fact there was no such case at all as all monies in fact had been duly receipted and to my knowledge, no monies were ever received and a receipt not given. Unfortunately lack of proper investigation leads one to jump to the wrong conclusions. 

The allegation that committee members were on holiday in neighboring Burma, “leaving volunteers to handle the project” is preposterous. Committee members participate in the programme in Cambodia not in their capacity as committee members but as volunteers themselves and they do not need to be present.

All volunteers start training from months in advance before embarking on this project, regardless whether they form part of the Committee or not and the qualification needed to be accepted to go is not whether they belong to the Committee but whether they are trained.

When the first group of volunteers, of which my wife and I formed part, left Cambodia after two weeks of hard work with street children and orphans we travelled to Burma (Myanmar) on holiday before returning home. The programme was entrusted to a qualified and trained group leader as planned months before. What we do after our stint as volunteers, including the choice of holiday destination at our expense and in our own time has nothing to do with the work of the NGO and does not prejudice the programme in any way.

Incidentally I must reiterate that all volunteers, committee members included, pay their own travel to and from Cambodia.

The selective publication of parts of a private chat on Whatsapp between a small group of volunteers in Cambodia was maliciously taken completely out of context. The exchange was a humorous one between an intimate group of volunteers. All members of this group know my humour as much as they know that my wife and I adore the children that we work so hard to help. I now realise, that taken out of context and out of the intimacy of the chat within which it was intended, it may be misunderstood. Notwithstanding I apologise unreservedly for the insensitive comments. 

The truth of the matter is that:

The NGO that I co-founded has mobilised hundreds of people of different nationalities and different walks of life who have contributed in one way or another to this worthy cause. 

The families of the children we sponsor receive provisions including food, clothes and other basic necessities. 

All volunteers and committee members, including my wife and I, pay out of our own pocket for all expenses relating to travel and also contribute financially and in other ways, including personal expertise and the personal sponsorship of children.

The NGO also offers a development programme to children in Malta.

The Commissioner closed the matter on the 31st May when it was declared that he was happy with the committee’s compliance and therefore considered the matter closed.

Your readers will undoubtedly understand that the report, evidently based upon some individual’s dark personal agenda, risks undermining the project and the good work that so many people have been dedicating so much of their time, voluntarily and at great personal sacrifice, to achieve.

At this point what keeps me awake at night is not so much the hurt that has been inflicted upon me, my wife and my daughter by your article, but the harm to the children both in Cambodia and in Malta and their families that we have grown to love as part of our own extended family and who would undoubtedly suffer the consequences of a suspension of this programme.

Alan Montanaro 

Editorial note:

Readers can rest assured that MaltaToday reported faithfully the contents of the warning that the Commissioner of NGOs personally sent to Mr Alan Montanaro. This newspaper understands that even personalities like Mr Montanaro, who enjoy a hard-earned bond with the public, must be held accountable when they use this public trust to solicit charity for the less fortunate.