Jamaica's Opposition Leader Mark Golding's Foundations -- On Time in the U.K., Delinquent for Years At Home
Politicians and Their Delinquent Non-Profits.
When 18º North initially checked in summer of 2022, Jamaica’s Opposition Leader Mark Golding was a trustee or director of at least five non-profits – one in the U.K., where his father was born, and four in Jamaica. But while the U.K.-based organization has been in good standing with the charity authority there, all four in Jamaica were outstanding on their filings at the Companies Office of Jamaica (COJ) for multiple years.
One was so delinquent - for more than 15 years - the COJ recently removed it from the register of companies.
The level of delinquency of Mr. Golding’s local organizations calls into question whether the attorney and one of the most senior lawmakers in Jamaica is more committed to the laws of the U.K. than those at home. It also begs the question, why are Jamaican authorities so tolerant of low compliance?
Mr. Golding’s Charity in The U.K. Versus His Non-Profits in Jamaica
By law, non-profits in Jamaica are required to file annual returns at the Companies Office, listing the address of the registered office and details of the current directors.
They’re also required to file financials certified by an auditor, containing the last balance sheet and a profit and loss account statement.
They also have similar requirements at the Department of Co-operatives and Friendly Societies (DCFS) if they are registered charities. Plus, all non-profits must file tax returns at the Tax Administration of Jamaica (TAJ).
But at the time of our initial checks in July 2022, the Jamaican non-profits for which Mr. Golding was listed as a director – The Mona Rehabilitation Foundation Ltd., Mona Preparatory School Foundation Ltd., Vision Development Foundation Ltd. and Greater Trench Town Foundation Ltd. – hadn’t fulfilled all their filing requirements at the various authorities for multiple years, based on the information garnered.
Meanwhile, in the U.K., The Sir John Golding Fund of which Mr. Golding is a trustee, is listed as being “up to date” and “seems to have a history of filing on time,” according to an emailed response from the U.K.’s Charity Commission.
The Sir John Golding Fund was named for Mr. Golding’s late father, who, though a Brit, made it his life’s work to rehabilitate disabled individuals in Jamaica and integrate them into society. That fund, along with The Mona Rehabilitation Foundation in Jamaica, provides financial support to the now government-run Sir John Golding Rehabilitation Centre in Jamaica, whose roots date back to the 1950s when it was founded by the senior Golding under a different name.
When asked about the disparity in on-time filings, Mr. Golding explained that “The resources (human and financial) supporting the Sir John Golding Fund are greater than the Mona Rehabilitation Foundation has at its disposal.”
On the human resources aspect, he said that while he believes a chartered accountant keeps on top of the filings for the U.K. non-profit, his assistant of many years, who has traditionally handled filings for the local ones, “has gone into renal failure and requires dialysis twice a week, which has severely impacted her ability to work.”
However, after 18º North notified Mr. Golding of the noticeable difference in compliance, the filings of his Mona Rehabilitation Foundation at the COJ were brought up to date in April 2023 and are now listed as in good standing. (Some of them had initially been submitted in November 2022, before Mr. Golding was contacted by 18º North, but they were rejected by the Companies Office.)
The latest filings of the Mona Rehabilitation Foundation show assets of J$11.2 million (£53,382), which pales in comparison to The Sir John Golding Fund in the U.K. that has assets of £379,144 (J$79.3 million).
When asked about the delinquencies of the Mona Rehabilitation Foundation at the tax and charities authorities, Mr. Golding said, it “is in the process of achieving tax compliance since it has relinquished its charitable status.” He explained that the foundation decided not to maintain its charitable status since it no longer needed duty-free importation of parts and materials for the manufacture of prostheses at the artificial limb shop at the Rehab Centre “because we have divested that manufacturing operation to a third party.”
The DCFS, through its parent ministry, the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce confirmed to 18º North last month that the Mona Rehabilitation Foundation does “not have a current registration certificate.” The Tax Administration didn’t respond to queries about whether the foundation has been brought up to date there since 18º North’s initial query, which showed there hadn’t been an income tax filing for the foundation on file as far back as the TAJ representative who took our call could see in the system, which was 2016.
Difference in Filing Requirements Between Jamaica and the U.K.
In the series of email exchanges, Mr. Golding complained that “the administrative requirements for maintaining charitable status in Jamaica have become increasingly onerous and costly.”
18º North found that, unlike non-profits in Jamaica that are required to do multiple sets of filings at various places, the Sir John Golding Fund in the U.K., based on its annual revenue of less than £24,000 (J$5 million), doesn’t need to register at Companies House and needs only to file an annual return to one place - the Charity Commission. The annual return includes basic financial details, trustee names and activities of the trust. The trust is also only required to file at the tax authority upon request.
In Jamaica, to help non-profits and other companies that had fallen behind on their filings and were no longer active, the COJ recently ran an amnesty for more than a year that allowed inactive companies to wind up their operations for a flat fee of J$7,500.00 (£36) per entity. But even then, the non-profits with which Mr. Golding is associated and which he stated were inactive, Mona Preparatory School Foundation and Vision Development Foundation, didn’t use this facility.
Mona Preparatory School Foundation - More than 15 Years of Delinquency
Mr. Golding, though a director himself at the time of our initial checks with the responsibility for ensuring the organization files on time, seemed to pass the buck to the other directors when asked why Mona Preparatory didn’t take advantage of the amnesty. He explained that maybe “it was not brought to their attention, or they may have forgotten about the existence of the dormant company.” At the time of our initial checks, Mona Preparatory had racked up over J$200,000 (approx. £1,200) in fines after it hadn’t filed an annual return or a financial statement since incorporation in 2006. As of March this year, the COJ has now removed it from its register of companies.
Why Did It Take So Long?
When asked why it took so long to remove Mona Preparatory School Foundation, the COJ wrote to 18º North that two letters were written to the foundation in 2009 and 2014 to get the foundation to comply, and when that failed, it was placed in a removals queue in 2022 —a process which usually takes about a year to complete. It said about 300 companies have traditionally been sued each year in civil court for failing to comply, but it’s not clear whether Mona Preparatory was one of those despite inquiries. COJ said more companies aren’t sued each year because of resource constraints.
Under the recently-amended Companies Act of 2023 in Jamaica, the penalty for failing to file annual returns has gotten tougher. The offense is now criminal and punishable by a fine of up to J$5 million per organization replacing the previous one of a daily J$100 penalty up to a maximum of J$10,000 per return. (The Mona Preparatory foundation is not registered at the DCFS, which has its own process for non-compliance.)
Vision Development Foundation
According to Mr. Golding, Vision Development Foundation ceased operations when its founder, Dr. Omar Davies, former member of parliament for St. Andrew South and former finance minister, retired in 2017. The relationship between both men dates back many years. Not only was Mr. Golding chosen by the People’s National Party to replace Dr. Davies as its standard bearer for that seat in 2017, a seat he eventually won, but in the early 2000s, there was also a controversy over the finance ministry under Dr. Davies awarding lucrative contracts to Mr. Golding’s investment company without competitive bidding.
Company records show Vision Development was incorporated in 1994, and Mr. Golding became a director in 2018. To have qualified for the amnesty, companies had to submit a declaration stating they had no assets or liabilities. But as of its last balance sheet from 2016, Vision Development had around J$41.8 million (£245,522) in assets and the same amount in equity and liabilities, most of that being related to a stadium that was built in the South St. Andrew constituency, according to both men.
Dr. Davies owned up to the delinquency of Vision Development, writing to 18º North on July 13, 2023 that “the required ‘tidying-up’ exercise was not given the requisite attention” and explaining that he has “now initiated the steps to have this exercise completed as quickly as possible.”
As of yesterday, July 24, 2023, the foundation was still delinquent.
Greater Trench Town Foundation Limited
On the delinquency of Greater Trench Town Foundation Limited whose purpose is to “promote the development and welfare of communities and people of Jones Town, Trench Town and their environs,” Mr. Golding told 18º North it’s not yet operationalized but promised to have it brought current.
We checked with the COJ, and the financials, which had been outstanding for three years at the time of our initial checks in 2022 are now listed as in good standing as of April 2023. (They are filed as nil returns.) 18º North could not ascertain the current status of this foundation at the Tax Administration despite checks. It isn’t registered at the DCFS.
Note: The exchange rate used to compare the Mona Rehabilitation Foundation’s revenue to that of the Sir John Golding Fund in the U.K. was the average sell rate of the Bank of Jamaica in 2021-when the last batches of financials were filed - which was £209.15:J$1. The same rate was used for the Companies Office amnesty. For the Mona Preparatory balance, the average of all the average sell rates of all years from 2007 to 2022 was used, which is £163.12:J$1. For Vision Development’s financials, the conversion rate from 2016 was used of £170.15:J$1.
With reporting by Zahra Burton and Isa Ridgard. Graphics by Shenelle Hanson.
Correction: This version has been corrected to say that there was no income tax filing on file for the Mona Rehabilitation Foundation as far as the TAJ representative who took our call could see in the system, which was back to 2016. It originally said there had not been a filing since 2016.
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