Saturday, March 22, 2008

Spirituality: Forensic audit clears prayer palace

Last year, the Toronto Star did a big story on one of these big evangelical churches north of Toronto, in this case the Prayer Palace. As I recall, the story seemed to imply that lots of financials were fiddled there.

I was on a TV show, Behind the Story, with a crowd of other hacks about that time, and we were, frankly, queasy about the whole thing.

Like, if no accounting audit shows financial mismanagement and no significant number of church members are unhappy, how much responsibility should media take for alleging wrong-doing?

And now, I read:
In March of 2007, The Prayer Palace's legal counsel, Marek Z. Tufman of Tufman & Associates, retained the services of Bruce Armstrong of LECG, Chartered Accountant (CA) and Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) to examine the church's financial records.
Bruce Armstrong has over 35 years of accounting, audit and forensic accounting experience, including seven years as the senior investigator at the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario (ICAO). He has been involved in more than 350 investigations, including criminal, corporate and civil matters, and has qualified as an expert in court on many occasions.

LECG investigated the church's financial records as far back as 1994, and found nothing to substantiate The Toronto Star allegations.

I'm all for the fourth estate exposing wrongdoing, but I think we need to choose our targets with care. We can do a lot of harm as well as good.