COULD THE N.S.W. AND FEDERAL EDUCATION
DEPARTMENTS BE PLAYING FAVOURITES WITH THE MALEK FAHD ISLAMIC SCHOOLS?
An investigation by The Australian has discovered millions of dollars in funds charged to the school, including unexplained “management fees.”
The Islamic school, Malek Fahd, is situated in Sydney's west at Greenacre. The school has also been hit with $2.59 million in back rent after the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (AFIC) retrospectively altered a lease agreement in 2009. In 2010, the school paid $3.15 million in “management fees” to AFIC, which included $2.2 million in management fees back charge.”
AFIC, also known as Muslims Australia, has not explained how the fees are being spent by the organisation.
Documents reveal the Malek Fahd Islamic School paid AFIC $5.2 million in 2010, an amount equal to one-third of the school's educational funding from the Federal and State Governments (Govts.).
The school is listed as independent, and is a separate legal entity from its landowner and founder AFIC. Government funds are given directly to the school, not to AFIC. Both are not-for-profit organisations, with the school entitled to a range of tax concessions as a charitable institution.
In 2008, a lease was signed between the school and AFIC that set the annual rent for the Greenacre property at $1.3 million, but documents reveal that, in 2009, the lease was altered to increase the rent to $1.5 million a year. The agreement was backdated management fees to AFIC, with another $959,800 handed over for management costs in that year.
Neither the school nor AFIC can explain what the management fees are charged for.
The Greenacre school site was purchased by AFIC in 1989 for approx. $2.2 million with funds from the Royal Family of Saudi Arabia. The school, which charges fees of about $1,200 per year, has been responsible for funding the construction of its own buildings. Along with Mr. Patel as chairman of directors of the Malek Fahd, the school's board also has several other AFIC executives. These include AFIC vice-president Hafez Kassem, treasurer Mohamed Masood and assistant AFIC treasurer Ashraf Usman Ali.
The concerns of the N.S.W. Board of Studies include non-compliance issues at the Malek Fahd Islamic School at Greenacre. In addition, they had poor attendance records and Record of School Achievement curriculum delivery, and education programs.
In March 2012, Greenacre's Malek Fahd Islamic School was ordered to repay $9 million to the N.S.W. Government as an audit.
On November 21, the school's appeal over the repayment order will go to the Supreme Court.
The N.S.W. Board of Studies will decide the fate of the school on December 10, knowing full well that the school had exceeded its development application for enrolment by more than 500 students, according to the Board's president, Tom Alegounarias.
The aforementioned is not the only Malek Fahd School that has problems. At Hoxton Park their school has had major battles in the Land and Environment Court, with the Hoxton Park Residents Action Group Inc. winning the first round. The Malek Fahd School and AFIC have become the second and third respondent, whilst the N.S.W. Govt.'s Mr. El-Hage the fourth respondent and Mr. Markus the fifth respondent for the Federal Govt.
It's worth remembering this case has stretched out to more than four years, and is ongoing. And it appears that the State and Federal Govts' legal representatives have aligned themselves with the Malek Fahd school and AFIC against mother of five, Ms Harris. One could be forgiven for believing that the second, third, fourth and fifth respondents, by appealing for costs against the plaintiff, Ms Harris, appear to be trying to bankrupt her.
Our Lobby Group continues to have observers at every court hearing. We will keep you informed regarding the final outcome.