Prison charity yet to process over €21,000 in payments

Marigold Foundation publishes full statement of accounts for Love Faith Forgiveness prison charity under fire for delayed payments

Mary Grace Pisani (left) with Michelle Muscat: Pisani runs the Love Faith Forgiveness project on behalf of the Marigold Foundation. She has yet to process payments paid from clients of the LFF project but some inmates have demanded that they be paid for the work they did.
Mary Grace Pisani (left) with Michelle Muscat: Pisani runs the Love Faith Forgiveness project on behalf of the Marigold Foundation. She has yet to process payments paid from clients of the LFF project but some inmates have demanded that they be paid for the work they did.

The prison charity Love Faith Forgiveness (LFF) is still expecting payment of €5,573 from public sector clients who commissioned the project’s participating inmates to sew curtains and dresses under the tutelage of LFF’s coordinator Mary Grace Pisani, a fashion designer.

But the charity itself has yet to process over €21,000 in payments, of which anything from €10,000 to €15,000 has to be paid to inmates, with the rest going to running expenses, NI payments and other funds.

The delayed payments were the source of much consternation among inmates who complained to The Times, prompting the Marigold Foundation – the NGO under whose umbrella LFF falls – to mount a defence of the project that has trained female inmates to work as seamstresses.

LFF has charged a total of €54,450 in drapery works to St Vincent de Paul residence, the CHOGM task force, Mount Carmel hospital’s young people unit, the Mtarfa home for the elderly, and the Local Enforcement System Agency (LESA).

But so far, only €14,755 has been paid to inmates, and more payments are yet to be processed.

The media fallout also prompted outstanding payments to be booked into the LFF account in the last week; but Mary Grace Pisani, who contracted the H1N1 ‘swine’ flu during a recent outbreak in prison, was unable to process the payments due to her period of convalescence.

In answers to questions sent by MaltaToday, the Marigold Foundation – whose patron is the Prime Minister’s spouse Michelle Muscat – said that the LFF charity was not a registered NGO, but is administered as a project within the foundation itself.

Fashion designer Mary Grace Pisani is managing the funds paid to LFF by its clients.

“Discussions with the ministry for social services are ongoing to put in place proper procedures for national insurance contributions on behalf of inmates involved in the project. Inmates are aware of this. A separate bank account is operated by LFF who are also responsible for the payments. The signatory to this account is Mary Grace Pisani.”

How the fund is being administered

The Marigold Foundation supplied this newspaper with a spreadsheet of the LFF finances, when it was asked to explain how surpluses were managed upon receipt of payments from clients.

The spreadsheet shows that from the amount charged to clients, LFF deducts 10% of the amount payable as an amount equivalent for NI – a contribution based on the rate for self-employed people working less than 40 hours a week.

Other deductions include costs for sewing accessories and administrative expenses which also include accounting and CCF services; and a 10% contribution that is earmarked for ‘projects in favour of crime victims’.

“Inmates are also aware of this as this is a major aim of the project, this amount is earmarked to be used by the Marigold Foundation in such projects.”

The remaining balance, identified under the spreadsheet as ‘future projects’, is being earmarked to help released inmates procure sewing machines should they want to pursue the trade.

“The criteria on how funds are to be allocated have been discussed in detail with CCF and also with inmates. Inmates have a price list and know the amounts they are being paid for each item of work they carry out,” a foundation spokesperson said.

Inmates aware of cost of labour

The LFF project has 14 inmates working on the jobs commissioned to the charity, who are paid according to the jobs they do and whose individual value is listed on a ‘price list’ available to the inmates.

In this regard, the inmates elect themselves voluntarily to pitch into the collective effort of delivering a job commissioned to LFF. Pisani then has to collate each individual inmates’ worksheet so that CCF can invoice the client.

“Inmates choose to attend the course and participate in the work scheme on a voluntary basis. They themselves choose when to go to the workshop and they decide how much time they spend there. They have never been asked to start work at 4am, as alleged. Prison authorities informed us that inmates usually start work after breakfast and special permission would be needed if a prisoner wants to leave the cell earlier.”

The foundation has insisted that the work is value at market prices, and that LFF has been transparent with inmates in providing them a price list of each task carried out – which journalists were shown during a recent tour of the prison classrooms.

“Participants fill in their respective worksheet detailing the type and amount of work done,” the foundation said.

On Saturday it also denied claims by The Times that two inmates, released in October and December, had not been paid. “They were paid in full for all the work they carried out. Payment is also due to another inmate who left at the end of February during the period when work was interrupted due to the H1N1 virus. Payments could not be processed during this period as the project coordinator, Mary Grace Pisani, was prohibited by her doctors from visiting CCF.”

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