Bonum Certa Men Certa

Detecting suspicious transactions in the Wikimedia grants process

posted by Roy Schestowitz on Apr 23, 2024

Reprinted with permission from Daniel Pocock

On 29 June 2017, one of the Albanians, Redon Skikuli, used the Open Labs forum to announce a FOSSCamp that would take place from 31 August to 3 September 2017 on the island of Syros, Greece.

The Open Labs group had gained a lot of good will through their OSCAL annual conference in Tirana, Albania. Chris Lamb, the former Debian Project Leader, had commented on the high proportion of female participants in these events.

After some careful analysis, it turns out the free software community had been fooled by the men running this group.

A few months before this, the community had elected me as the Fellowship representative in the FSFE. Some of the Albanian women came and told me about the unscrupulous behavior of these men. I wrote a detailed blog about it.

At around the same time that the Albanian women tipped me off, one of the Wikimedia employees in Greece became suspicious about the manner in which the Albanians were not simply having an event in their own country. It had been organized at the last minute and people who don't live in the region would not have the opportunity to get affordable flights. In other words, the Albanians were hoping to get funds from larger groups but not be bothered by the presence of people checking whether any work was done at the Syros beach resort.

Poor behavior????

Jonathan Carter has been spreading rumors about poor behavior. What we see here is an example of integrity, looking through the shady financial dealings and documenting how the women were used as puppets to obtain money for their male controllers.

In most organizations these discussions and names would be handled privately. In September 2018, Chris Lamb and one of the Albanians colluded to spread messages denouncing my work. By violating the privacy of my family and I, they are also violating the privacy of everybody else in these emails.

Subject:        Fwd: Re: Wikimedia funding / FOSSCamp Eligibility queries
Date:   Sat, 21 Oct 2017 09:08:55 +0200
From:   Daniel Pocock <daniel@pocock.pro>
To:     ca@wikimedia.org

Confidential
Hi Maggie / Support and Safety team,
I'm writing to make you aware of this because of the possibility that one or more of the women who applied for these grants may have been under pressure from Elio Qoshi and Redon Skikuli.
https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:ElioQoshi https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Leeturtle (Redon Skikuli)
Elio and Redon are in various roles: - volunteer contributors to Wikimedia projects, speakers, event organizers - board members at the non-profit Open Labs organization, which runs the hackerspace in Tirana - Elio is the founder and Redon appears to be a manager in Ura Design, the company receiving the registration fee discussed below, and at least one of the women, Silva, is their employee
If one or more of these women violated the terms of their grant, it may have been specifically because of pressure exerted by Elio or Redon as employers or as peer pressure, fear of not being part of the group at the hackerspace or a combination of these factors.
I've visited this group several times as part of my work with Debian and Outreachy. I'm also aware of at least one other harassment case that doesn't involve Wikimedia but where a woman was directed how to behave by Elio and Redon.
Regards,
Daniel
-------- Forwarded Message -------- Subject: Re: Wikimedia funding / FOSSCamp Eligibility queries Date: Fri, 20 Oct 2017 09:58:42 -0700 From: WMF Grants Administrator <grantsadmin@wikimedia.org> To: Daniel Pocock <daniel@pocock.pro>, participation <participation@wikimedia.org> CC: auditor@debian.org
Daniel, thank you for your email. I'm looping in the TPS group to make sure the email gets to the appropriate people.
Best,
Janice Tud Grants Administrator
On Fri, Oct 20, 2017 at 9:32 AM, Daniel Pocock <daniel@pocock.pro> wrote:
Hi,
I'm writing to you concerning these applications that were approved:
https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Grants:TPS/Sido_uku/FOSScamp_Syros_2017 https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Grants:TPS/Nafie_shehu/FOSScamp_Syros_2017 https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Grants:TPS/Silva.1994/FOSScamp_Syros_2017
and I have also been looking at your Eligibility criteria:
https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Grants:TPS/Learn#Funding_decisions
In particular "organizations are not eligible" and "We support volunteer participation; participation that is tied to paid work is not eligible for funding."
I was on CC for a funding request sent to the Debian Project for the same event.
After the event, I became aware that one of the requesters, Silva Arapi, is an employee of Ura Design:
https://ura.design/2017/08/25/ura-sha-2017/
and all the funding requests submitted to Wikimedia and Debian included a payment of a registration fee, which has apparently gone to Ura Design:
https://forum.openlabs.cc/t/fosscamp-2017-syros-greece/459/28
Just about everybody at the event requested money for this fee from non-profit free software organizations like Wikimedia and Debian.
In fact, the people submitting the funding requests never mentioned Ura Design (a for-profit corporation), they only mentioned Open Labs (a non-profit group)
As that part of the funding (EUR 40 each) went to an organization, that part appears to violate point 2 in the criteria.
The discussion in that forum topic, at this point, mentions that the organization didn't provide any service to the participants (such as meals or t-shirts) in exchange for that money:
https://forum.openlabs.cc/t/fosscamp-2017-syros-greece/459/12
As some of the participants are employees of the organization and it appears they have made a profit from the event, it may be paid work, violating point 5.
There also appears to be a serious conflict of interest when people make funding requests for money to go to their own employer. The Wikimedia example Grant Agreement appears to require applicants to notify if there is a conflict of interest: https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Grants:TPS/Example_agreement
For clarification, the event did actually take place, some of the participants were definite volunteers and real contributions were made at the event. There are genuine volunteer contributors in the Open Labs community who are not part of these issues.
I would kindly request that you share any information about these matters with the Debian auditor team (on CC)
In the forum discussion, there are requests for a financial statement about the event: would somebody from Wikimedia post a comment in the discussion asking for them to publish a financial report? They said they won't publish it unless you ask them too. It would be very interesting to see what they include in the financial report before making them aware of any of the other matters in this email.
Regards,
Daniel

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