Wyclef, Wyclef, Wyclef. Sak Passé? Instead of spending your time writing a memoir and airing your dirty laundry, maybe you should have spent more time making sure your organization, Yéle Haiti, ran properly. The New York Times recently published an extensive exposé on Wyclef’s organization which uncovered mass amounts of money mismanagement and broken promises. After examining the organization, it shows that millions in donations to the earthquake victims went to operational expenses, salaries, and travel.
According to the NY Times:
The forensic audit examined $3 million of the charity’s 2005 to 2009 expenses and found $256,580 in illegitimate benefits to Mr. Jean and other Yéle board and staff members as well as improper or potentially improper transactions. These included $24,000 for Mr. Jean’s chauffeur services and $30,763 for a private jet that transported Lindsay Lohan from New Jersey to a benefit in Chicago that raised only $66,000. In 2010, Yéle spent $9 million and half went to travel, to salaries and consultants’ fees and to expenses related to their offices and warehouse. In contrast, another celebrity charity, Sean Penn’s J/P Haitian Relief Organization, spent $13 million with only 10 percent going to those costs. Though Mr. Penn’s group spent $43,000 on office-related expenses, Yéle spent $1.4 million, including $375,000 for “landscaping” and $37,000 for rent to Mr. Jean’s Manhattan recording studio. Yéle spent $470,440 on its own food and beverages.
Not only was there frivolous spending going on, many of the organizations promised money, never saw one green gourde (Haitian currency). “If I had depended on Yéle,” said Diaoly Estimé, whose orphanage features a wall painting of Mr. Jean and his wife, “these kids would all be dead by now.
Could Yele Haiti be considered one big fail? Did any of the promises made by Wyclef actually come to fruition? Well maybe, but not exactly fully.
Some of Yéle’s programming money went to projects that never came to fruition: temporary homes for which it prepaid $93,000; a medical center to have been housed in geodesic domes for which it paid $146,000; the revitalization of a plaza in the Cité Soleil slum, where supposed improvements that cost $230,000 are nowhere to be seen.
There were questionable contracts, too: Mr. Jean’s brother-in-law, Eric Warnel Pierre, collected about $630,000 for three projects including the medical center and the plaza – what Yéle’s tax forms called “the rebuilding of Haiti.” Mr. Pierre did not respond to messages left for him. And a Miami company called Amisphere Farm Labor, incorporated in 2008 and dissolved in 2009, received $1 million in 2010 to provide hot meals to displaced Haitians. Yet a Haitian caterer has sued Yéle for $430,000 in nonpayment for these very same meals, thus far succeeding only in getting the charity’s Haitian bank account frozen.
With Yéle’s money management being questioned, Derek Q. Johnson, Yéle’s chief executive, resigned. “As the foundation’s sole remaining employee, my decision implies the closure of the organization as a whole,” wrote Mr. Johnson.
What remains of Yéle and its broken promises? Apparently not much. The country estate used for the company’s headquarters is currently abandoned. The street crews used to clean up are nowhere to be seen, and neither is Wyclef. Well, because you know, he has that book to promote.