Another anonymous whistleblower has contacted the Total System Failure team regarding Engineers Without Borders Canada (EWB), an international development NGO based in Toronto. They have suggested that EWB has a practice of using illegal tourist visas to work in African countries such as Kenya and Ghana.

The anonymous person submitted the following:

“You should start asking questions about the Visa’s that EWB LTF’s [Long-term Fellows] are on, especially in Ghana and Kenya. Did EWB spend money to send a Kenya LTF to Uganda because otherwise she was going to be deported? Or ask if they are legally registered in each country as an NGO to get the appropriate documentation, I will answer in short, EWB is not.”

Countries such as Kenya require that NGOs register themselves properly.  The NGO Board of Kenya regulates NGOs and states that they are responsible for “advising the government on their contribution to national development.” All registered NGOs are required to submit an Annual Report.

Most countries also require that NGO workers obtain work permits–which require a fee and provide revenue to the host country. These work permits, which apply also to unpaid/ volunteer work, require that the organization prove that there is no suitable local candidate for the position (highly unlikely that there are no suitable local candidates for the work EWB is doing).

EWB, if they are obtaining tourist visas for their workers and requiring them to ‘fly under the radar’ i.e. lie about their activities and actual status, are putting their Canadian workers at risk as well as engaging in unethical practices related to local hiring and host country guidelines. (If they had to obtain work permits for their Canadian workers, they would also be forced to admit they are in fact workers and should be paid more than $2/hr or whatever their ‘stipend’ provides these days.)

If the leadership of EWB thinks that they do not have to register as a NGO because they are conducting for-profit enterprise in these countries–often run by Canadians and funded with charitable dollars, and staffed by Canadian ‘volunteers’ who are also supported with charitable dollars–then that deserves a much larger discussion (EWB’s entire ‘development’ model and theory of change deserves rigorous scrutiny, and is on the surface highly flawed). If EWB thinks that they do not need to register their workers, follow local recruitment guidelines, or pay tax because they are ‘helping’ these countries, that is paternalistic bullshit. It is also not okay for the idealistic young people who fundraise for EWB’s international work to demand voluntourist trips that are systematically undermining local economies.

Even more disturbing is the possibility that EWB has used taxpayer dollars to invest in for-profit enterprises and then has kept those profits to themselves or re-invested them.

We have contacts in one of the countries where EWB has many projects, and they are looking into this further as well as undertaking longer-term investigation into the actual impact of EWB’s ‘ventures’ there. Check back here soon for more information.