Guide Dogs Victoria has been caught lying to donors about its poor performance, including blaming its surging wages bill on increasing clients – when its client numbers have actually fallen substantially over a decade.
The Klaxon has obtained copies of emails sent in response to donors who have contacted the charity raising serious concerns, following a string of exposes by this publication.
As previously revealed, the charity is charging taxpayers four times what it was a decade ago to deliver just three-quarters of the services; has missed every one of its own guide dogs supply targets since 2016; and, in the 2020-21 financial year, supplied just 35 guide dogs (it spent $1.99m providing dogs in the year, against revenue of $22.8m).
Both Gordon and Guide Dogs Victoria CEO Iain Edwards refused to comment when The Klaxon approached them with detailed questions about Gordon’s false claims.
Edwards released a statement to the media in June which makes some of the false claims repeated in the Gordon emails, although Gordon’s false claims are even more extensive.
Guide Dogs Victoria made headlines in mid-April when it emerged then CEO Karen Hayes had appeared in political advertisements spruiking then Treasurer Josh Frydenberg for re-election.
It is illegal for charities to advocate for politicians or political parties.
Serious false and misleading claims: one of Gordon’s emails. Source: Supplied
The Klaxon subsequently undertook a series of forensic investigations into the charity, raising many serious concerns, including that it spends more than twice as much on fundraising than it does providing guide dogs.
Hayes, who had been CEO since November 2011, was suspended by the charity’s board when the Frydenberg scandal broke.
On May 31 it was announced Hayes had “resigned” from the charity.
“Gordon and Guide Dogs Victoria CEO Iain Edwards refused to comment when contacted about Gordon’s false claims”
Refusing to respond: The Klaxon’s letter to Guide Dogs Victoria, including two of Gordon’s emails. Source: The Klaxon
Gordon writes to one concerned donor:
“The claims are based on fundamental inaccuracies and misrepresentations of the information we share public about our remuneration – such as the figure being quoted as the CEO’s salary, when that figure is not the remuneration of a single Corporate Officer”.
The Klaxon’s reporting has been entirely accurate.
Guide Dogs Victoria has at all times refused to state how much it paid CEO Hayes.
The charity’s 2013-14 annual report states “Key Management Personnel” were paid $298,678 in the year, and that Hayes was the sole person included as “Key Management Personnel”.
Since then, payments to “Key Personnel” have continued to grow – to $553,000 in the 2020-21 financial year – but the charity is refusing to say who, or how many people, are included in that “Key Personnel” figure.
“Guide Dogs Victoria spends more than twice as much on fundraising than it does providing guide dogs”
Guide Dogs Victoria’s false and highly misleading claims:
1. The letter states: “These reports that you refer to which originate from an independent social media commentator are grossly untrue”.
In fact: The reports were published in The Klaxon, an Australian investigative news outlet. The reports are entirely accurate and sourced from Guide Dogs Victoria’s own financial statements.
2. The letter states:“Recent inaccurate and disrespectful online social media commentary about the “amazing work being done by our organisation” and “many people across the wider Guide Dogs Community, including our own valued clients, have been deeply offended by the insensitive and personal views being directed against our organisation”.
In fact: The Klaxon’s reporting has been entirely accurate and conscientiously ethical at all times.
3. The letter states:“The views about our organisation are based on fundamental inaccuracies and misrepresentations of the information we share publicly each year about performance, our outcomes and our remunerations – such as the figure being quoted as the former CEO’s salary when the Annual report this was taken from clearly states that the figure is not just the remuneration of a single member of Key Management Personnel”.
In fact: The Klaxon’s reporting has been entirely accurate. Guide Dogs Victoria has at all times refused to state how much it paid CEO Karen Hayes. The charity’s 2013-14 annual report states “Key Management Personnel” were paid $298,678 and show that Hayes was the sole “Key Management Personnel”. Since then payments to “Key Personnel” have continued to grow, to $553,000 in 2020-21, but the charity is refusing to say who, or how many people, are included in that figure.
4. The letter states: “Furthermore, incorrect assumptions were made about our range of services; 70 per cent of which are not dog-related, and all of which are reported on in publicly available reports each year”.
In fact: No incorrect assumptions were made about Guide Dogs Victoria’s “range of services” – and that 70 per cent of those services are “not dog-related” is not contested. As previously reported, the charity has performed as bad, or even worse, when it comes to those “non-dog services” than it has delivering guide dogs.
5. The letter states:“Our Guide Dog graduation and matching rates have remained steady”.
In fact: That’s the problem. As The Klaxon has reported since our first expose, Guide Dogs Victoria supplied 35 guide dogs in 2020-21, which was the same number as a decade earlier, despite its government funding surging four-fold.
6. The letter states: “The increase in our employee wages bill…is as a result of additional staff employed to help meet the needs of our increasing client base…”
In fact: Guide Dogs Victoria’s client base is 25 per cent lower than it was a decade ago.
7. The letter states: “The social media commentary and subsequent media reports were incorrect to suggest that government funding received by Guide Dogs Victoria has ‘exploded’.”
In fact: Government funding received by Guide Dogs Victoria has exploded. It has grown four-fold over the past decade, despite it supplying the same number of guide dogs, and providing around 25 per cent less services.
8. The letter states:“Claims that our services to the public have plummeted are grossly inaccurate.”
In fact: Guide Dogs Victoria’s services to the public have plummeted. It is delivering 26 per cent fewer hours of services each year than it was a decade ago.
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