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Optometry Giving Sight Australia closes in rescue of BHVI Foundation

03/07/2019By Callum Glennen
After 10 months of turmoil at both the Brien Holden Vision Institute and Foundation, a merger of Optometry Giving Sight Australia (OGS Australia) and the Foundation (BHVI Foundation) has finally been confirmed, saving the organisation from collapse.

From 1 July OGS Australia ceased to exist, with its liabilities and assets rolled into the BHVI Foundation. Internationally the global Optometry Giving Sight organisation will continue, and be based in the US.

The move clarifies the organisation’s future after a media release incorrectly issued by the BHVI Foundation indicated the Optometry Giving Sight name would continue to be used in Australia in conjunction with BHVI Foundation.

It also ends the uncertainty regarding the outcome of the long-awaited merger of two organisations, which was announced in January 2018 but never formally completed.

The merger is critical to saving the BHVI Foundation from collapse, after it was revealed financial mismanagement had put it on the path to insolvency unless drastic changes were made.

Name clarified

BHVI Foundation CEO Ms Yvette Waddell confirmed to Insight that the OGS Australia name would no longer be used.

“The merged entity will trade as Brien Holden Vision Foundation. The Optometry Giving Sight name will no longer be used in Australia. The media release, which was quickly retracted, was released in error,” Waddell said.

“The merged entity will trade as Brien Holden Vision Foundation. The Optometry Giving Sight name will no longer be used in Australia”
Yvette Waddell, CEO at BHVI Foundation

“Optometry Giving Sight Australia will cease to be a legal entity as of July 1, 2019. The organisation’s assets and liabilities will be rolled into BHVI Foundation, and will operate under that name. Optometry Giving Sight will still exist internationally, and be run by a board in the United States,” Waddell confirmed. Existing donors to OGS Australia will be offered an alternative way to continue their donations.

“Optometry Giving Sight Australia’s existing donors will be informed that OGS Australia no longer exists, but if they would still like to give to the OGS cause they still can,” Waddell said. “OGS donations in Australia can be made to BHVI Foundation, and money will be deposited in a quarantined account that will strictly fund projects that are authorised, approved and directed by OGS USA.”

Foundation saved

BHVI Foundation’s merger with OGS Australia became imperative due to the organisation’s perilous financial position.

As previously revealed by Insight, crisis talks were held at the beginning of June to secure BHVI Foundation’s future beyond the 2018-2019 financial year. Following revelations of maladministration within the organisation, the charity engaged professional services firm KPMG to undertake an accounting audit.

A summary presentation of the audit obtained by Insight details that KPMG’s auditors had “no confidence in the numbers provided” by BHVI Foundation for its FY19 budget and actuals.

According to the report, BHVI Foundation’s financials included multiple sources of information that do not agree or easily reconcile, inconsistent definitions of ‘income’, inconsistent use of cash vs accruals accounting and the incorrect labelling of ‘surplus’ and ‘cash’ in the budget approved by the board.

The report summary also states the manner in which funds are quarantined made it difficult to understand the true position of the charity’s individual projects. It also stated that if financials are not balanced “consideration must be given to winding up the Foundation.”

The report also revealed that Mr Andrew Mir, CFO of both the BHVI and Foundation, was not present at board meetings to present the FY18-19 information.

Insight contacted Mir and inquired as to why he was not present at these meetings, but did not receive a response. Waddell told Insight that Mir was not invited to any FY19 Foundation board meetings, but does not know why. “As for Andrew: we are none the wiser! We do things (very) differently now,” she said.

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Insight contacted KPMG but was told the organisation does not provide comment on client engagements. Insight also contacted Mr Roger Wong, director of Calibre Partners, who audited the BHVI Foundation’s most recent financial report, but did not receive a reply.

Future secured

In addition to the merger with OGS Australia, BHVI Foundation has also initiated a number of cost cutting measures.

“There will be changes to international programs in Africa, Asia Pacific, Latin America and South East Asia. Service delivery will continue in these countries however we are scaling down our operations and some projects will cease,” Waddell said.

The rescue plan also includes staff cuts.

“Twenty positions in head office and international offices will be made redundant or in the case of contractors be brought to an end. This number does not include the BHVI Africa Trust, which is currently working through its own restructure.” However, the last minute plan has been enough to save the BHVI Foundation.

“Beginning 1 July 2019, the Foundation will be operating with a balanced budget. The finance function will be outsourced to KPMG. All staff entitlements are and will be fully funded,” Waddell said.


More reading:

Million-dollar bonus at Brien Holden sparks board governance concerns   - 07/09/2018
Revelation: Brien Holden chairman wrong   - 19/09/2018
BHVI chairman wrong about million-dollar bonus, more governance concerns emerge   - 03/10/2018
Brien Holden Institute chairman resigns  - 07/10/2018
Brien Holden Institute "missing" $1 million questioned  - 31/10/2018
BHVI Foundation removes CEO amid maladministration investigation   - 22/02/2019
BHVI under investigation by ACNC, while serious issues uncovered at foundation   - 05/04/2019
BHVI Foundation avoids collapse; ‘last minute’ plan saves charity   - 03/06/2019
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