Norway: Pakistani organization accused of membership fraud

Norway: Pakistani organization accused of membership fraud

Norway's largest immigrant organization received large grants.  When TV 2 called a number of members, 80% said they weren't members.  The association, which has been in existence since 1974, is very powerful in the Norwegian-Pakistani community, and over the past ten years received more than a million kroner in support from the Oslo municipality. In February they sent a new application with 506 names of members.

But though the Pakistan Workers Welfare Union received a lot of money from the Oslo municipality, the members lists were never checked.

Rowena Teodocio, the head of the department for integration and multiculturalism (EMI) says that they didn't inspect this organization this year or before that.

Well-known Labor Party politician, Khalid Mahmood, was a central activist in the Pakistan Workers Welfare Union since the 70s.  All these years he had central administrative positions. In the last application to the municipality in February, Khalid Mahmood is listed as secretary.

when TV 2 wanted to check the member lists they were refused by the Oslo municipality and only got a censored version. With help of the national population register, tax lists and other databases, they managed to reconstruct many of the names.

And when they rang those listed as members, one after another answered that they weren't members and didn't pay union dues in 2008.

Of the 34 randomly selected people, 28 answered they weren't members.  TV2 also found a member who died two years ago.  Several said they didn't know or remembers, but they are not counted in the sample

For several days Khalid Mahmood refused to explain why 80% of a sample in the organization say they aren't members.  He was presented with TV 2's findings both in writing and orally, but did not wish to explain.  Khalid Mahmood wrote in an email to TV 2 that he thinks it's much better if they take it up with the head of the organizatoin, since he's the spokesperson and they'll get everythign from him.

The famous immigration spokesperson, who's also a parliament candidate for the Labor Party from Oslo, says he resigned as secretary in March.  It's was just one month after the last application to the Oslo municipality for financial support.

Mahmood directed TV2 to Fazal Hussain, who's the head of the organization.  And his explanation for having 80% of the sample deny membership is that people lie.

Q: So the members lie?

A: Yes!  You know how many crazies there are in the association.  One day  they're against you and the next they're against me.  It isn't easy to head the association," Hussain told TV 2 Nyhetene (News)

Q: Do you have confirmation today from all 506 of your members?

A: No, but I say that we have different people who recruit members.  Some recruit everybody in their family, for example, 50 people.  And they collect the names, birth dates, addresses and money and come to the administration," says Husaain.

The members of the Pakistan Workers Welfare Union join the same day and the membership dues are paid immediately to the organization's account.  According to the guidelines, funds can't be paid out unless every single member paid membership dues.

Hussain, who denies that they inflate the numbers, says that they're not the Norwegian Federation of Trade Unions and they're just a simple and little welfare union.  They're not professional.

Certainly, the more members the  Pakistan Workers Welfare Union has on their list, the more money they get from the authorities.  the union also uses its size to seek other support.  In February they received 265,000 kroner from the foreign ministry for a seminar on Islam and democracy in Oslo.

Rowena Teodocio is head of the department at Oslo municipality which hands out millions of kroner every year to immigrant groups.  Despite TV 2's survey she doesn't suspect the Norwegian-Pakistani organization.  Teodocio says that their starting point is not to start a dialog with organizations by saying that they cheat.  It would be wrong.

After more than an hour of interviewing the head of the organization admits that what is supposed to be Norway's biggest immigrant association maybe doesn't have the most membership activity.

Q: How many come to your membership meetings?

A: Sometimes one or two.  but there aren't many who come, says Hussain.

Abid Q. Raja (Liberal Party) is Khalid Mhamood's political opponent.  he says that it's completely unacceptable that an elected politician as Khalid Mahmood doesn't answer a critical question. 

Raja says there have been membership frauds in many other organization. It's an un-culture which must be fought.  If they don't answer the questions, Oslo municipality should be brought into it, then the politicians in the municipal council, and maybe even the police, to investigate what's happening in these organizations.

Raja believes other organizations might have cheated to get money from the municipality.  He thinks it might be just the tip of the iceberg, and therefore he thinks it's important that the Oslo municipality gets involved and not just accept the membership lists which are sent in.  There must be a full open review of this.  This is cheating with the community's means.

He says taht according to the rumors in the community, this is the top of the iceberg and if one goes deeper into it, he will find big financial misconduct, including embezzlement,  lack of loyalty and fraud.

Raja says that these are such grave accusations that he thinks people should answer the questions, in particularly when they're elected.  This should be cleaned up.  These types of cases hurt the reputation of all immigrants, he says.

Source: Tv 2 1, 2 (Norwegian)

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