An NGO closed down all its activities for lack of money. Bad management? Unavoidable problems linked to the economic crisis in Europe? I do not know and there is no point in trying to walk on the slippery ground of mistakes, guilt, scapegoats & co.
They closed down and the expats working in the country left in hurry for fear of becoming victims of the (more or less fair) claims from the employees and various creditors.With no more money left the only thing to do was to sell the remaining belongings in order to pay the last salaries. Pretty logical.
Did they leave one person responsible for that or choose an external agent with the mandate of managing the exit strategy? No.
They wrote and signed a paper where – in one paragraph – they named a local staff delegate in charge of selling the remaining goods of the NGO and distributing the money to her colleagues. Orally, they told her to take a percentage as “compensation” (her contract, and her regular wage with it, had ended along with all the others) and that was all.
It is maybe just my personal point of view but leaving a person with such a responsibility without a clear mandate and no help of any sort led me to think about how difficult it can be to trace the line between stupidity and criminal act.
If the expats left so quickly it surely means that they actually understand well the danger in which a person can be in such a situation.
More than one hundred local staff left suddenly without a job, thousands of euros to take back from selling goods and more than double that amount in debts. How do you expect people to react when they understand that just one person has the key to that money and that there is not enough for everyone?
If you add to this that many of the goods and staff were (and some still are) in war zones, I really think that studying conflict and knowing the “free rider” theory is not a necessary prerequisite to understand the gravity of the situation.
Even admitting that she will be able to go to all the provinces where the NGO had its bases, convince the people around not to steal everything by promising them they will get a piece of the cake back, that she will get enough money to pay a “fair” amount of money to all the former employees and that she will be able to convince everybody that the money she is taking as salary for herself is a fair amount for the job done – and those are already more that huge “if” -, how is she supposed to clear all the suspicions of not having sold at a good enough price, of having made fake bills, of having taken too much money for herself? The simple fact that she can even take money for all this is not guaranteed since she has no contract of that sort.
What I would like to ask those people who decided to give her such responsibilities is if they realized that someone can just decide to take “manually” from her the thousands of euros she is collecting. If they realize that, in the best of the scenarios, she is exposing herself to be pursued by the private companies with which the NGO had, and still has, thousands of euros of debts.
I got to know the story almost by chance, when she asked me candidly if, with the money left, she should pay the bank or another big company they had debts with, considering that the money was not enough for even one of the two.
For now I told her not to give any money since she has no mandate, and thus no authority, to decide who is to be prioritized; not to take any money for herself; and to take good care to obtain all the proofs of payment. Then to go to the embassy of the country where this NGO originates and ask for – at least legal – support.
In the meanwhile she will wait with a lot of money, stored I do not know where, and everybody knows it.
NGOs often lack of competence and a minimum of intelligence, to put it lightly, and their goodwill too often serves as a shield to cover for all the bullshit done.
But I still think that there are limits.
Can someone help me understand where to draw the limit between stupidity and criminal act?