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Published in the 1-15 Apr 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Managing Zakat and donations of the community 

There is a need to conduct an audit of Islamic/Muslim social and welfare organizations to find out how effectively Zakat and other donations are utilised, writes M H Lakdawala

The Milli Gazette Online 

Mumbai: An important issue related to Islamic/ Muslim social and welfare organizations, is "Are the Islamic/ Muslim social and welfare organizations, capable of managing efficiently, and productively a huge chunk of Zakat and donations?"

Most of the Islamic/ Muslim social and welfare organizations are funded by the community’s Zakat and donations. Unfortunately the donors do not monitor the activities and the effectiveness of the organisations work. Most of the donors believe that once they have made donation they will reap the reward in Hereafter. Hence the majority of donors do not actively monitor the utilization of the funds by these organizations.

The model followed by Islamic/ Muslim social and welfare organizations is borrowed from the corporate organisational structure minus the control and monitoring. "How effectively the funds are utilized", no one is bothered about. Neither donors nor the community. The result is we have medical practitioners opening and managing schools, architects controlling admissions to professional courses, traders managing hospitals, scientist managing welfare trusts, students deciding community affairs..

The issue is not whether they are capable of managing the affairs of these organizations or not, the issue is how effectively and competently they do it? Can a medical graduate run and manage a full fledged educational institute or can a trader run a hospital efficiently?

Thus we have all sorts of organizations competing for the community’s limited Zakat and donations and most of them perform substandard work as they lack expertise. The question arises as to why these Islamic/ Muslim social and welfare organizations do not take the help of professionals. The simple answer is that they want to save on professional fees. But to save a few thousands rupee the quality of work is sacrificed with the result that millions of rupees are wasted because of wrong decisions taken.

The unprofessional approach has locked large community funds in unproductive assets and activities. We have dispensaries which are as bad as it could get, we have Islamic websites which are hardly updated, we have Islamic schools which burden the innocent young Muslims with a narrow version of Islam, Islamic libraries which have become the personal libraries of those who manage them.

Another reason why Islamic/ Muslim social and welfare organizations do not involve professionals is, they do not want to share power. Any individual or group managing an organization has a huge budget. Thus we have few individuals, families and groups controlling substantial budgets and running these organisations as their personal or family fiefdom.

Millions of rupees are wasted in the hands of incompetent people managing Islamic/ Muslim social and welfare organizations. The community needs to debate this issue of monitoring these organizations.

Looking at the expense statement of these Islamic/ Muslim social and welfare organizations one can easily make out that sizable amounts are spent on managing the organizations only. 

The blame also lies with the donors. Most of the donors allocate Zakat and other funds on the basis of project presentation, reports and the proximity to the people who manage these organizations. They hardly visit the sites or give importance to supervision or monitoring. Thus in Mumbai one of the Islamic organizations collected Rs 25 lakhs ostensibly to start an educational guidance center for Muslim students. Today there is nothing but the office of the organization. Another Islamic organization raised crores of rupees for catering to the English speaking Muslims through the electronic media. Today crores of rupee worth of editing, recording and other equipment are lying idle. 

 Umpteen number of organizations have ambulance service but quite often it is used for ferrying the organization members or lying unused in the junkyard. Quite a few organizations spend lakhs of rupees on organizing ideological training camps, seminars, conferences where outdated subjects are recycled and precious resources wasted.

There is a need to conduct an audit of these organizations to find out how effectively the community Zakat and donations are utilized. A group of individuals must take up this issue. Precious human and financial resources are wasted in unproductive and useless activities.

Even a cursory look at the relief work done by a few of the Islamic/ Muslim social and welfare organizations revealed that the quality of the work done is below the expectation of the donors.

Like all other sectors, the performance of the Islamic/ Muslim social and welfare organizations is a mixed bag. Many a times the positive side is usually highlighted. But accountability and transparency will go a long way in improving the credibility of Islamic/ Muslim social and welfare organizations. There was a time when people working with Islamic/ Muslim social and welfare organizations were revered. Today these leaders are envied for the cushy lives that they lead with less of work and more lip service.

Another misconception is that man power in Islamic/ Muslim social and welfare organisations should be made up of volunteers. Most of the problems of the social sector are so complex that they can't be handled merely through volunteers. They require full time professionals. This could still be voluntary. It does not necessarily need to be unremunerated. The salaries in NGOs are not comparable to the private sector except for a few international funding agencies which are into development work. Yet people working in Islamic/ Muslim social and welfare organizations have to fend for their family getting no concessions from various service providers. This whole issue should be taken out of the ideological realm and discussed at a practical level. A start can be made by creating a platform where such issues can be raised. 
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