For 20 years, WE Charity has worked in partnership with communities in Kenya, building a hospital, health clinic, free college, free boarding high schools, women’s empowerment center, farms and greenhouses, and building 230 schoolrooms and related infrastructure that enable daily education for 13,000 children.
WE Charity operates in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, and the organization has established multiple systems to identify and rectify misconduct.
Over the past 25-years there have been two cases where WE identified significant malfeasance by a WE employee. In both cases, the appropriate protocols were followed, including forming a sub-committee of the Board of Directors to provide governance over the matter, engaging relevant third-party experts in the investigations, and referring all relevant information to the local authorities. In both cases, WE Charity funds remain intact.
1. WE engaged proper third-party experts and authorities, including international fraud experts, Kenyan police, auditors, lawyers and human resources consultants to identify and solve the malfeasance.
2. WE followed proper governance. WE Charity Board members were involved in the process, including travelling to Kenya to meet with lawyers and auditors and local staff.
3. A proper outcome was achieved. In the cases of the two acts of malfeasance, the suspects were identified and charged by Kenyan police, both signed confessions with notaries present, misappropriated funds were returned, and the matter is before Kenyan courts.
4. WE leadership acted with professionalism and integrity. Multiple staff from the global headquarters and Kenyan branch were active participants in identifying and solving the malfeasance. Third-party experts especially praised the leadership of co-founder Marc Kielburger and COO Scott Baker.
5. Proper structures are in place in Kenya. Third-party experts reviewed the process, including a forensic auditor, a former solicitor general and a retired court of appeal justice. These learnings were applied to ensure continuous improvement of the organization.
WE Charity submitted the matter and its conduct for independent review for continuous learning.
Financial Review: Forensic accounting expert Dr. Al Rosen reviewed the relevant financial materials related to Kenya, including the malfeasance, and the actions by the organization that followed. Dr Rosen is a Fellow of the Chartered Accountants of Ontario and Alberta (FCA), a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE), and a specialist in Investigative and Forensic Accounting (CA-IFA). He has provided expert testimony or affidavits in jurisdictions across Canada, including the Supreme Court of Canada.
We wish to ensure the public has the complete and full information:
To protect charity assets key development programs were transferred to WE Charity Canada.
Following the investigation into employee malfeasance, experts involved in the investigation recommended that it may be prudent to transfer the control of several key local humanitarian programs from Free The Children Kenya to the global organization, WE Charity Canada. At the same time, legal counsel in Kenya advised that the local Land Control Act does not allow for Free The Children Kenya to own land designated for the purposes of agriculture. On the advice of Kenyan experts, WE Charity Canada’s Board of Directors approved a proposal to move the assets to a new entity, “WE Education for Children”. As recommended by legal experts and approved by WE Charity Canada’s Board of Directors, the new entity would hold the shares of the property in trust with WE Charity Canada as the beneficial owner of the humanitarian projects.
Forensic accounting expert Dr. Al Rosen reviewed all aspects of the asset transfer and concluded: “It involved ‘WE Education for Children’ holding the assets ‘in trust’ for WE Charity Canada. Our understanding is that WE Charity officers in Kenya handled the legal responsibilities and complied with all laws.”
The conduct of WE Charity senior employees and co-founder Marc Kielburger has been lauded for protecting the charity and staff during an extremely difficult time
WE Charity senior leaders and specifically Marc Kielburger’s actions were thoroughly reviewed by credible and experienced experts who found that they provided compassionate leadership in extremely difficult circumstances. They worked with the Canadian High Commission to Facilitate their safe passage to Canada.
Mr. Torigian’s report stated: “WE Charity leadership including Mr. Marc Kielburger provided evidence that assisted the investigation and will be integral to the prosecution. Throughout the investigation Mr. Marc Kielburger worked collaboratively with the investigative agency and local police, and provided all material evidence required for criminal proceedings against Mr. Ruhiu.”
“In keeping with Canadian standards, WE Charity and in particular Mr. Marc Kielburger addressed these matters appropriately by keeping the Board and local authorities apprised. They took every reasonable step consistent with expectations in Canada and most developing countries.”
WE works with the Maasai, Kipsigis and Kisii communities in Kenya, helping to co-create sustainable solutions that empower them to build brighter futures for themselves and their families, and ensure the survival of their vibrant cultures. Through WE Villages, we have:
• Provided 13,000 Kenyan children with the opportunity to attend WE-supported schools every day
• Built over 230+ schoolrooms, libraries, teachers’ offices and kitchens
• Constructed Kisaruni Group of Schools, which includes an all-girls secondary school and an all-boys secondary school: to providing Maasai and Kipsigis students graduating from primary schools in our partner communities with access to secondary school through individual scholarships and ongoing support of the Kisaruni Long-Term Sustainability Fund
• Opened the doors to two health centres: Baraka Hospital and Kishon Health Centre, which have provided over 125,000 patients with high-quality medical care
WE has 2,500 current and former staff, and we’re not immune to malfeasance. Fortunately, our systems worked. We proactively identified a problem, engaged our Board of Directors, hired external fraud experts, terminated the suspect, and cooperated with the authorities. It was a long and painful process. Unfortunately, when you tangle with dishonourable people, they fight back by acting dishonourably.
As difficult as the entire process was for the organization, we are stronger for having gone through it. We implemented additional financial oversight and audit protocols for all of our international operations. Financial management of all WE entities in Kenya from early 2018 onwards has been sub-contracted to a respected third-party firm that specializes in financial management. No transaction is performed without their execution and oversight. This specific function is not performed by any employee of WE Charity or ME to WE.
We hired new leadership to coordinate the international audit process and we appointed a new Country Director in Kenya who has extensive experience working at WE’s international operations.
While Herjavec Group noted that WE Charity’s cybersecurity infrastructure system was sound and robust at the time of the perpetrators’ actions, we have worked closely with Herjavec’s experts to further strengthen all Free the Children Kenya and WE Charity IT systems, which now allow for better alerting to any suspicious internal activity.
WE Charity uses the Kenyan incident as a case study to teach its leadership in North America and all global operations. It is well-known within WE Charity and serves to deliver a number of important teachable lessons on protocols and processes.
Nothing will keep us from carrying out our international development work – it’s just too important to give up and we won’t be deterred by a few bad actors.