Archive for the ‘Scandal & Shame’ Category

Missing from a Children’s Home or Just Missing

Sometimes you come across a charity that you hope you never need. ‘Missing people’ captured my imagination for no apparent reason although they ran a list of missing people in the last Big Issue.

Charity number 1020419 ‘Missing People’ offers a lifeline for the 250,000 people who run away and go missing each year. For those left behind, they search and provide specialised support to end the heartache and confusion.’

Missing Children Europe is a European federation for missing and sexually exploited children. They operate   a European hotline telephone number 116 000  for missing children. The hotline is currently operational in all EU Member States with the above number  handled in the UK by Missing People.

This follows on from this months launch of an inquiry by the All Party Group for Runaway and Missing Children and Adults. Their report supported by the Department of Education says that 64%  of children living in children’s homes are living out of borough and of those 1990 children went missing last year, more than double the 2015 total. Anne Coffey, (MP for Stockport) and the groups chairman said, ‘Isolated and alone without family or friends they become prey targets for paedophiles and drug gangs and can become trapped in a brutal world. The children’s homes system is broken and catastrophically failing children and young people….’

Comment

  • Didn’t we learn when we sent children to Australia and Canada? Then at least there was a war going on.
  • Aren’t we learning when there are regular media reports of abuse, human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation.
  • Time for constructive action and greater moral fiber, not more inquiries.

Eye Don’t Believe It

1079949 – AGE CONCERN SLOUGH AND BERKSHIRE EAST

Who Would Be A Charity Auditor

When things are bad they are often worse. Having survived a whistle blowing episode in 2014 and remaining independent of the Age UK consolidation you would expect this charity to take extra care. With new enthusiasm let us hope this is what happens. Extracts from the latest published report and accounts continue the story.

‘Due to the fields of activity in which the charity operates and its trading enterprises, there is a risk that the charity could suffer serious reputational damage as a consequence of the actions of its staff (e.g. in
advocating for clients), volunteers, trustees or its wider interests such as campaigning. This risk is managed by ensuring …. that good governance arrangements are in place (e.g. declarations of interest and governance polices) to ensure all relevant legal, statutory
and regulatory compliance is adhered to.

The Trustees who served during the year to 31″March but have recently resigned were:
A Cannings
B Mittal
R Whitehouse
R Dhokia

R Akwa was appointed to the Board on 26 September 2018.

Post Balance Sheet event
Since the year end, the group concluded negotiations with a major supplier which resulted in the cancellation of certain amounts owed by the charity at the year end. The benefit of this transaction which relates to this financial year end is £105,975 and has been recognised in these financial reports

The amount due from the subsidiary … was unsecured, interest free and there were no fixed terms for repayment. The Trustees have considered the recoverability of this amount which was £321,484 (2017: f325,968) and in the opinion of the Trustees, the full amount should be recoverable and no provision against that amount needs to be made.’

Oddities from a cursory review of the report and accounts lodged with the charities commission include  the worries of a third year of excess costs over income: debtors of quarter of a million pounds when most shop income is taken as and when a sale arises:  Lease commitments lasting beyond 5 years that over time approach one million pounds:  Profit related pay introduced at loss making charity shops Handy Help Ltd

Concerns

  • Overtrading is a business risk and having opted for a business-charity model this outfit seems to have fallen foul in many ways. Such a badly broken business would be closed, as arguably this charity should be but how do they extract themselves and who will fill the social needs.
  • The charity has a 33% interest in Interhelp Limited the Age Concern company selling insurance and financial products. There is a negative balance sheet and adverse publicity has dogged the project.

Dealers in Drugs – Opioids for the Masses

Not all drug dealers have the negative connotations  one associates with street drug suppliers; consider the pharmaceutical based  Welcome Foundation or the Sackler family.

1128926 The Dr Mortimer And Theresa Sackler Foundation’s aims are  ‘the advancement of research and education in England and Wales and
elsewhere in the fields of art, science and medical research.’ The Sacklers funded the Medical Research Center at the University of Cambridge, our School of Clinical Medicine and the Faculty of Medicine at Tel-Aviv university as well as numerous other research programs and fellowships.

The wealth of the $multi-billion families of Raymond and Mortimer Sackler arises from Purdue Pharma a privately owned and operated global company which sells the opiate drug Oxycontin and Oxycodone.

Issues For Purdue Pharma

  • Major health concerns continue to surface about the use and abuse of synthetic opioid drugs. Increased mortality, reduction in life expectancy and more suicide & liver disease are cited.
  • Federal judges in Ohio are allowing public health organisations to sue opioid manufacturers and distributors.
  • In Connecticut the attorney general alleges that ‘the Purdue Pharma’s board and executives made huge financial gains by misleading doctors and patients about how addictive their prescription opioid medications were’.
  • ‘Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said the family that owns the drug company Purdue Pharma is personally responsible for the company’s role in the opioid crisis’   purdue-‘pharma-family-oxycontin-abuse
  • Back in 2007 fraudulent promotion of OxyCotin resulted in a $600million fine for Purdue plus personal fines for the executives responsible. Perhaps this will now be an outbreak of litigation addiction.

Concerns Beyond Charity

  • Other drugs in widespread use in the UK including fentanyl, tramadol and methadone are prone to causing addiction and other health problems.
  • The United States is in the midst of a drug crisis, with dramatic increases in the rate of opioid overdose deaths. Australia’s drug research center says ‘Powerful opioid fentanyl poses serious risk of fatal overdose’. Wake up UK it is also happening here!
  • Can charity and business mix?
  • Who has the ability to police and prevent corporate and personal abuse of such powerful narcotics. Charities are left to pick up the pieces.

Own Goals at Professional Footballers Association

November was a Bad Month for PFA

The PFA has been embroiled in a  war of attrition since chairman Ben Purkiss publicly called for modernisation.   Gordon Taylor the well paid executive who has led the PFA for 37 years is having to defend on many fronts.

  • Why  do millions of pounds sit unused in the PFA accounts.
  • How Taylor was able to earn £2.29m last year, remuneration that makes him the highest-paid union official in Britain?
  • Ben Purkiss wants better communication with players and to have mental health higher on the agenda.
  • There is media interest in the growing number of former players now suffering from dementia.
  • Taylor is facing a wide-ranging number of complaints about his leadership over, the sexual-abuse scandal, stamp it out and the amount of money used to help former players.
  • Taylor has questioned Ben Purkiss’s eligibility as unpaid chairman.

The Charity Commission

The Charity Commission confirmed that another trustee Paul Elliott,  has resigned after he had entered into an IVA. Elliott’s resignation is due in part to the failure of the charity to obtain a waiver for him and represents a further blow to the PFA.

The Charity Commission has now opened a regulatory compliance case into the governance of the PFA charity, in effect an investigation into whether it has complied with charity rules. This followis concerns about matters of governance and the £2.3m salary of the PFA’s chief executive, Gordon Taylor.

The PFA have made a statement indicating that the recommendation for a review had come from the administration, headed by Taylor, rather than the union’s trustees, who are responsible for its governance as a charity, or management committee, responsible for its running. It said an independent QC would be appointed presumably by the administration.

Concerns

Too many own goals have been scored by this well funded and well paid administration. Where are the footballing members who should be helping to bringing the organisation to account.

Football teams have to pay for policing at matches. It seems reasonable that excessively affluent organisations such as this should pay for any necessary charity commission investigations.

Motability Mixes Business with Pleasurable Remuneration

Fleet of Vehicles

Motability is the umbrella for a series of organisations that  provide charitable grants to disabled people who would not otherwise be able to afford the vehicle or adaptations they need.

Motability is a registered charity No. 299745  with net assets of £154m and reserves of £109m.

Motability Operations Group is not a charity but is owned by  major banks Barclays, Lloyds and Royal Bank of Scotland. No dividends are payable to the owners and surpluses should ultimately be donated or revert to the charity. There are reserves in the operations group of £2,430m. The operations company is the delivery company under contract for the Royal Chartered Motability service.

Motability Tenth Anniversary Trust No. 328160 -is a separate charity with over £200m in reserves. The cost for managing  this fund is £1.9m yet they they have no employees.’

 Issues

  • This structure of corporate and charity vehicles allows large surpluses to be made on the secondhand car market, commissions from the sale of insurance and the ability to claim  £750m pa  in tax relief.
  • The Daily Mail revealed ‘Boss of car scheme for the disabled is on £1.7million… and YOU pay…  Motability last night declined to say if Mr Betts will be awarded a further £2.2 million bonus, and denied concealing details of its executives pay ‘. Their accounts maintain his pay is less than £1m.
  • MPs recently questioned Motability’s lavish salaries and the combined   £4.4billion reserves and large cash stockpile. The result is to be further National Audit Office investigations which already critisise excess lease costs.

Charity Commission Report

Earlier this year the commission undertook a detailed review of the charity’s financial accounts and of its relationship with the non-charitable company Motability Operations. The outcomes are still being investigated but the initial conclusions included:

  • ..the pay of the CEO of its commercial partner Motability Operations may be considered excessive and may raise reputational issues for the charity.
  • we consider the level of operating capital held by the company in order to guarantee the scheme to be cautious’
  • A parliamentary Joint Select Committee  subsequently published a report and ‘in the interests of transparency’, Motability Operations and Motability voluntarily agreed for the National Audit Office (NAO) to conduct a value for money review

Comment

The investigative media have a role in highlighting hypocrisy, arrogance and extravagance both of which abound in parts of the charity industry. However the industry must rely on trust in trustees.

Regulation is often fragmented and slow to catch up. It  takes too long to investigate and obtain action but we should be grateful there are still some gatekeepers.

 

 

 

Big Ugly Animals at RSPCA

Hot on the trail of the ugly side of the RSPCA the charity commission followed up earlier fines with an ‘official warning’ with the implicit threat of taking over The RSPCA unless there are significant improvements.

This action arises after trustees sanctioned a £150,000 golden handshake for the acting head / chief executive Michael Ward. The payment seems to have been negotiated under the threat of a claim of ‘unfair treatment’ in the process of filling the role permanently. (on that basis would you want this person as a chief executive anyway?) The commission found that ‘the trustees failed to make adequate enquiries and ensure the decision was made properly ‘particularly given the large sums involved’.

Big Ugly Animals

Many large charities seem to believe they are ‘kings of the jungle’ and trample on the feelings of members, supporters and the public.

Corporate reputation or managerial incompetence is too often defended or ignored for insubstantial reasons and vanity.

Accountability and responsibility and obfuscated by actions that do no credit to the organisation.

RSPCA is just one victim of this malaise in the charity industry but they seem to keep on causing consternation. They claim to be well advanced with reforms following a governance review but can a leopard change his spots.

Comment

Big business may take similar actions by making gross payments for failure and/or success of executives. That doesn’t make it right for a charity using donors money.

Politicians are sometimes said to be economical with the truth, extravagant with expense declarations and ‘expert’ at the bad cover up. That doesn’t make it right for a charity and damages public confidence.

Three Imprisoned Monks before Charity Commission Act

Update Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA)

Nothing new after 40 years of of sexual abuse and cover up!

The latest report by (IICSA) says 2 schools, Ampleforth and Downside, were ‘secretive, evasive and suspicious’.  By the same token at school ‘the perpetrators did not hide their sexual interests’ in a culture of blatant acceptance of abusive behaviour.

Powerful Abbots and church officials seem more interested in protecting the Catholic Church’s reputation than safeguarding children.

 

From Charity Chit Chat 6th April 2018 Post

12 months and 12 years on and Ampleforth Abbey and St Laurence Education Trust are still in the news over sexual abuse allegations. The charity commission has this month stripped both charities of responsibility for pupil welfare after last years inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse. The independent inquiry, set up by Teressa May, heard allegations  against 40 monks and teachers. An interim manager has been appointed to both charities.

In 2006 Fr Piers Grant-Ferris a Benedictine monk  and teacher at Ampleforth was jailed when he admitted 20 indecent assaults on young boys. Another former Ampleforth teacher, Gregory Carroll, was imprisoned in 2005 for the abuse of pupils but was ‘forgiven by the Ampleforth authorities’.

A year ago on 5th April 2017 Charity Chit Chat reported ‘1026493 –  AMPLEFORTH ABBEY a living, breathing community of monks and lay people who embody the fifteen-hundred year-old Benedictine precept: that we should live prayerfully, compassionately and humbly in the service of God and our fellow men’. A shame then that last week an Ampleforth College teacher Dara De-Cogan was jailed at York Crown Court after sexually abusing one of the pupils.

Concerns

Why is it taking so long for realistic action to take place in this and similar instances.  The charity commission are not designed to be ‘the moral police’ but seem to be used as an authority of last resort.

There are a lot of individuals who should have stood up to be counted. Three prison sentences a national investigation and countless heartbreak before cases are taken seriously.

The current younger generation should be imbued with moral fiber and integrity not taught by perverts that silence and a stiff upper lip is more important.

RNIB The Institute for Turning a Blind Eye

The Charity Commission has opened a statutory inquiry following concerns over safeguarding at RNIB flagship ‘Pears Centre’ the children’s home (formerly called Rushton Hall school).

An Ofsted report in January, following a series of poor reports, said a high number of incidents and accidents involving pupils could lead to withdrawal of Pears Centre’s registration.

Back in 2003 the head teacher and another senior staff member of Rushton Hall school were suspended  after the school was judged to fall below minimum standards.

The Charity Commission Investigation

‘The inquiry will focus in particular on the trustees’ governance and oversight of safeguarding arrangements in the charities’ schools and care homes and will be reviewing whether trustees reported all relevant safeguarding incidents which have occurred to the Commission.

The Commission’s investigation will examine the extent to which the trustees of the charities have taken and are taking reasonable steps to protect users at the Pears Centre from harm.’

The RNIB’s chief executive Sally Harvey resigned as the investigation started. She was only in post from October 2017 having been acting CEO for a year before that.

Comment

Six or eighteen months tenure as Chief Executive is not long to solve deep seated problems and effect culture change. There are various scenarios for Sally Harvey’s departure including scapegoating, departure before being pushed and resignation on principle as it happened on her watch.

Is this a  ‘tip of the iceberg’ case as experience shows that when problems seem bad they are often even worse?

 

 

Pornography on the BBC

The charity BBC Media Action 1076235 with its sister charity in India works around the world in the areas of health, governance, humanitarian, education and climate. If like me you have never heard of this charity you may be surprised to find they spent £48m of largely  public money last year. Since 2011 the UK Department for International Development (DFID) has given a £90 million grant that was due to end in 2017 and is not yet renewed. In 2017 there were 838 staff 187 of whom are on UK contracts (23 staff earn over £60,000).  Formerly called the BBC World Service Trust the rebranded charity is not funded from the BBC or the license fee. However they work closely with the BBC sharing procedures and the chair of trustees is Francis Unsworth the Director of BBC News. (She may currently regret being in her own news).

Pornography and Harassment

This week the charity has hit the headlines in the Oxfamgate saga. Over a period under review six staff have been dismissed for sexual harassment and watching pornography on work computers. In a couple of cases no grounds for formal disciplinary action were found. In a statement the charity say none of the issues investigated involved beneficiaries nor were there any child protection issues. However problems have never been reported to the main funder DFID nor made public so who knows if further revelations will be forthcoming. After the Jimmy Savile saga do not expect any exposè programme from the BBC.
In a previous public sector case an individual was dismissed for having and watching pornography on a works computer. Surprisingly he was back at the same organisation within a couple of years. At least he was not passed on to another unsuspecting organisation.

Oxfam a View on the Oldest Profession

Oldest Profession

Commonly held views can lead to errors of judgement. It is a widely and satirically held view that  the oldest profession is that of being a prostitute. In defending Ofam’s staff’s use of prostitutes in Haiti  Mark Goldring the chairman of Oxfam said ‘……makes you wonder what did we do? Murder babies in their cots?’ All this comment achieved was to provide fodder for the media industry (in our opinion not one of the older or more honourable professions).

Charity work has a valid claim to being the oldest profession. In the Garden of Eden the fruit of the tree of knowledge was given to Eve. There after the parable of ‘the Good Samaritan’ highlighted the good  work done by those who see a need and act to resolve the issue without thought of personal reward. (A massive thanks to all the modern day humanitarian samaritan charity workers operating with integrity.)

Many other profession should and are being called to account over abuse. Church and religious leaders have committed abuse on children then sought to orchestrate a cover up. Politicians have used there positions of power and influence thereby creating sex scandals. The entertainment industry, not wishing to miss out,  proclaim ‘#me too’. That is after years of ‘the casting couch’ innuendos. We wouldn’t expect all our military to be celibate and fervently hope no ‘scurrilous scandals’ emerge in these professions. Investigations in to the protection of the vulnerable by public sector professionals and workers has exposed the dramatic failings in Rotherham, Oxford, Newcastle and other UK areas.

Comment

Abuse and issues within a sector, in this case the aid charities, runs deeper than sexual and physical abuse. The current exposé should create a more open environment to address all the moral and human failings but do not expect the problems to be eliminated anytime soon.

Unfortunately many of the leaders in the aid and humanitarian sector do not seem to understand their aid work  is being undertaken ‘In My Name’ and in the name of all supporters, donors and right-minded people.

When a problem looks bad, experience shows it is probably far worse than originally thought. It is also a truism that a cover up will cause at least if not more opprobrium to be brought to the obsfucators.

There are numerous media reports on what could be called Oxfamgate which you may choose to investigate. As the dust settles Charity Chit Chat will revisit the core issues and the leadership needed to move forward.

 

Donation for Homeless Used by Salvationist

Major Nottle the leader of the Salvation Army in Australia has defended his organisation’s actions after his daughter was given tickets to a Paul McCartney concert  that had been donated to give ‘a bit of a lift’ for homeless people. Chris McDonald, the donor and a former homeless person was surprised to see two well-dressed people in the allocated seats and he discovered they were  Major Nottle’s daughter and her partner. “I have been a recipient of their relief so I know how important the work they do is, but the golden rule is never to dip your hand into the donations – it calls the integrity of the entire organisation into dispute.”

Denying the Unacceptable

  1. “It had absolutely nothing to do with me,” Major Nottle told Radio 3AW. Thus spoke a true leader.
  2. “The manager did the ring around of other homeless people and volunteer staff and wasn’t able to move them [the tickets] because it was so late.” And also because most homeless people do not have telephones.
  3. “When you’re working with homeless people, to be blunt, do homeless people need tickets to Paul McCartney or do they need a roof over their head?” Well the donor had personal experience and this sort of comment is crass.
  4. The Salvation Army will reimburse the donor for all seven tickets, Nottle said, adding that concert tickets were not an appropriate donation for homeless people. Guardian There is an implication that this will come out of Salvation Army Funds? Major Nottle’s comments and actions will put off other creative donations.

In the words of Paul McCartney songs now it’s the time to Let it Be because All You Need is Love (and a roof over your head). Still there is Hope of Deliverance.

Web Fundraising a Scammers Paradise

It may be part of human nature for tragedy to stimulate a charity gene that provides an outpouring of cash and emotion. Tragedy is  the backbone of funding to help with international disasters and top up the coffers of DEC. Big charities hopefully ensure their web funding, logistics and ethics are legal, decent and honest. That may not always be so on smaller one off appeals by amateurs often using fundraising platforms, email and social media, (modern day tin collecting.)

In the face of recent concerns the charity regulators are meeting with fundraising platforms to impose new guidelines.

Campaign Updates for Man made Disasters

  • The We Love Manchester Fund managed through the Red Cross has reached over £4 million, thanks to generous donations the majority of which was via web sites. Each of the 22 bereaved families will receive £250,000.
  • Grenfell Tower as a search term on Just Giving has 3 appeals linked to registered charities. But not all are for registered charities, Just Giving, had to take over control of an account spuriously raising cash for  Westminster terror attack victim.
  • The British Red Cross, K&C Foundation and the London Community Foundation have come together to make money available immediately through the London Emergencies Trust, a charity set up following the Westminster Bridge attack this year to support the victims of emergencies. There are reports of false claims by individuals seeking to gain from the tragedy.
  • In Las Vegas, ‘Zappos for Good’ is matching donations made on the CrowdRise donation page, up to $1 million, to help support victims and their families of the recent shooting massacre.
  • The Mirror and other national newspapers report: a page to raise £1.5million to prosecute missing Madeleine McCann’s parents was taken down amid fraud claims; ‘scammers’ had hijacked a web fundraising campaign to send a little girl with leukemia on a dream trip to Disneyland;  Another case saw a dance teacher convicted for inventing a story about a nine-year-old “pupil” who was dying from cancer and asked for donations to pay for a dream trip to Disneyland; Kids’ football coach Darren Head, 39, got a 14-week suspended jail term in 2015 for stealing about £4,500 he raised on Just Giving .

Comment

  • Caveat emptor or buyer beware was a commercial mantra until it was overtaken in the UK with a compensation culture,  miss-selling rules and entitlement beliefs. Some of those who have donated to fraudulent sites are hoping to get the money refunded. Do not hold your breath.
  • Encourage and assist the Charity Commission to keep up their scrutiny and integrity work.
  • Beware Band Waggon Jumpers and make your own assessments of relative need and marginal operators before parting with cash or support in kind.

Knights of Malta

THE ASSOCIATION OF BRITISH MEMBERS OF THE SOVEREIGN MILITARY ORDER OF ST JOHN OF JERUSALEM OF RHODES AND OF MALTA   227994
THE ASSOCIATION OF BRITISH MEMBERS OF THE SOVEREIGN MILITARY HOSPITALLER ORDER OF ST. JOHN OF JERUSALEM OF RHODES AND OF MALTA   1103567

A recent furore, surrounding this organisation and charity with over a thousand years of history, has begun to calm down . These two English & Welsh registered charities (along with SC040124) form part of the worldwide organisation based in the Vatican.

Issues for The Knights of Malta

It sees itself as a Roman Catholic ‘sovereign’ entity which runs refugee camps, drug treatment centres, disaster relief programmes and clinics around the world. As a result of recent turmoil a power struggle is taking place.

Internal fighting has enabled or forced Pope Francis to step into this semi autonomous organisation and rest control. An investigation has brought to light weaknesses in control systems, financial clarity and the conduct of its governance.

Matthew Festing, the British and recently deposed Grand Master of the order was banned from attending an election for his successor. He had accused and then dismissed the orders Grand Chancellor, Mr von Boeselager for condoning the distribution of condoms in an aid project in South-east Asia.  After much negative publicity and internal politicking, German-born Mr von Boeselager was reinstated with Vatican backing.

As the Catholic Herald reports ‘At stake is the governance of what is still technically, …  a sovereign international government which prints its own passports, wields enormous international influence, and controls considerable sums of money….. the religious and Catholic character of the order itself, and the true motivations of those who have triggered this whole process will be fiercely tested in the next year; and the new constitution which emerges will show not only who won, but what they were really fighting for in the first place.’

The British Charities

The Hospitaller order in December 2016 has reserves of over six million pound, annual income of £4,031,000 and charitable and other annual expenditure of £1,400,000 p.a.

The Military Order in December 2015 had reserves of £5,951,000 million pound, annual income of £4,166,000 and charitable and other annual expenditure of £1,035,000 p.a. (2016 accounts are due)

Comment

Expect more friction by May 2018 but don’t expect any illumination or clarity on the international funding and resources.

Current reserves look to be exceptionally generous unless charitable spending is dramatically increased.  The trustees should stop politicking and start spending

Dissing the National Trust Again

Gosh Ghosh is going! We wait to see what pension and final payments she receives. With her new role as Master of Balliol College Oxford  she should still be able to afford her National Trust Membership.

Six months ago I was sticking up for the National Trust when they got egg on their face over messing with Easter. Enough is enough and damaging headlines are again catching out this so called national treasure.

National trust rainbow badge –                       additional   material Mail Online

Telling volunteers they must wear a rainbow badge at Felbrigg Hall Norfolk in support of the 50th anniversary of decriminalisation of homosexuality was heavy handed in the extreme. It has caused such ripples that the trust backed down and now say they only request that the gay pride badge be worn. These weasley words were issued after volunteers and members complained leaving in droves in protest.

LGBT is a community of people whose sexual or gender identities can create shared political and social concerns. Writing in the Daily Telegraph   Dame Helen Ghosh currently chief executive said those who did not wish to wear gay pride lanyards could ‘step back’ from volunteering or take a backroom role. But just hours later, the National Trust issued a statement saying: ‘We are aware that some volunteers had conflicting, personal opinions about wearing the rainbow lanyards and badges. We are therefore making it clear that the wearing of the badges is optional and a personal decision.’ What was not optional was the Trusts decision to ‘out’ Felbrigg Hall’s former owner, the poet Robert Wyndham Ketton-Cremer, as gay.

 ‘Betrayal of Trust: how the National Trust is Losing its Way’.

This is the title of a presentation by journalist and historian Harry Mount  author of ‘How England Made the English: From Why We Drive on the Left to Why We Don’t Talk to Our Neighbours’ In a  public lecture he highlighted many issues for the National Trust including:

  • An organisation that was once the pride of Britain has been hijacked by a lethal combination of catastrophic dumbing down, social engineering, rampant politicisation and intolerance of opposing views under its last two director generals, former civil servants Dame Fiona Reynolds and Dame Helen Ghosh.
  • The Trust has sacrificed its original aims on the altar of political correctness and as a result we and future generations are all losers.
  • The mindset at the top of the organisation is alienating members and the volunteers who are the Trust’s lifeblood.
  • Headlines generated by this latest row have done nothing to help the Trust’s reputation for getting involved in areas it has no business to.
  • According to the National Trust Act of 1937, the Trust’s twin duties are the preservation of buildings of national interest and of beautiful landscapes.
  • Forget beautiful buildings and landscapes; what now matters is imposing modern political claptrap on our greatest country houses. It is symptomatic of an organisation that no longer cares for history.
  • A litany of further minor issues are raised in Henry Mount’s full article that make you question the management and politics of our National Trust. You may also be interested in his Spectator article on a similar theme ‘ How The National Trust is spoiling its treasures’.

 

 

RSPCA Still Getting It Wrong

The charity commission has received more complaints about the RSPCA than any other charity for each of the last two years. (Freedom of Information Act Third Sector) The RSPCA recently received the largest fine amongst charities for breaches of data protection laws.

Former chief executive, Gavin Grant, left after  two years in charge  followed  by his deputy. After a hiatus Jeremy Cooper became chief executive but resigned after a year at odds with some trustees political agenda with an adversarial stance on many issues and his desire to see rectification of mistakes.

What the Charity Commission Has to Say on the RSPCA

  • The governance of the RSPCA remains below that which we expect in a modern charity and we are concerned about the impact on public confidence.
  • RSPCA governance must be ‘brought up to standard’.
  • This has been brought into focus by the departure of the CEO and the clear recommendations of the charity’s independent governance review that the Commission requested the charity carry out.
  • We will consider what further regulatory action may be required should improvements not be made with the necessary urgency.

RSPCA and Police Powers

  • One objective of the charity appears to be obtaining police powers for  RSPCA inspectors. This could allow RSPCA  access to private property without the presence of a police officer as is currently required.
  • A cross party group of MP’s have already expressed doubts about this mooted change. Last month at the AGM the intention to get increase powers was reiterated.
  • If Defra and national police chiefs do not block this change to increase inspectors powers local authorities may be asked to act locally.

Concerns

  • Is the RSPCA a welfare charity for animals, a trustee’s political platform or will it become a private police force? Following their recent track record who would trust them as a police force?
  • When a situation is known to be bad, as is in this case of the RSPCA, it is often worse. What else may crawl out of the woodwork before better governance is in place.
  • RSPCA is a national institution, custodians of over £200,000,000 of reserves, beneficiaries of large regular income flows. However getting so many issue ‘wrong’ the public’s goodwill and thus future income and animal care will suffer.
  • As result of it’s privileged position in our society the RSPCA lives in a media spotlight. Ignore this at their peril.

BBC Panorama Programme 3rd August 2017

Further controversy has been raised by Panorama’s investigation into the RSPCA since we commented 4 weeks ago. I was taken by the comments by 2 defence barristers who both felt they had been unacceptably targeted by the RSPCA.

Preemptive comments were issued prior to the programme by the RSPCA

  1. We’re disappointed to learn that BBC Panorama will broadcast a programme about the RSPCA on Thursday 3 August 2017.  We understand that the programme will seek to portray an RSPCA that would not be recognised by its staff, volunteers, supporters or the many thousands of animals and people helped each year. ………….. ……… It will not recognise these things because it has chosen not to.’
  2. The Mirror reported that Brian May the Queen guitarist and animal rights activist feared a ‘hatchet job’ was to be orchestrated as part of  a campaign by the pro fox hunting lobby against the RSPCA.

‘Me thinks they doth protest too much’ – better to’ man up’ and resolve the serious issues of inappropriate governance.

Bankrupt Financially and Morally

Scotia Aid  Sierra Leone : SC024249

A Cult of Scorn and a totally inappropriate way of running a charity has driven Scotia Aid Sierra Leone into a £1.1 million bankruptcy. Uncontrolled trustee excesses, marginally acceptable activities and failure to deliver on the charitable purpose are in danger of bringing charities into disrepute.

Trusteeship Issues

  •  A recent investigation by the Scottish charity registrar OSCR in to Scotia Aid Sierra Leone found that payments had been made by the charity to companies connected to trustees that were “excessive and have not been sufficiently explained”.
  • The charity was reported to the  regulator in 2015 by whistleblowers  who complained of mismanagement and  huge trustee fees.
  • Using their own private companies three trustees paid themselves  £300,000 as tax efficient “consultancy fees”. The investigation led to directors Kieran Kelly and Alan Johnston being barred from running any charity for life . Houston  escaped action by quitting as a trustee before regulators acted so he is free to set up new charities.
  • Kelly  a convicted criminal exploited a gaping hole in charity legislation that allows anyone with convictions for crimes such as assault to be a trustee unless they have been convicted of dishonesty or fraud.

Financial Scams

  • The charity based much of its income on a ‘business rates’ reduction scam. Scotia Aid would take over empty commercial premises and go into an arrangement with the owners for a fee.
  • Claiming (falsely) to be storing donated furniture and other goods destined for Sierra Leone the trustees used their charitable status to cut the cost of business rates.
  • The plunder was spent on lavish salaries, high expenses and even sponsorship of Hamilton Academicals FC .
  • Only a maximum of 13p in the pound was spent on charitable activities.
  • A deal with an Italian charity FHM Italia Onlusm was not honoured leaving them in the lurch.

Kids Company – Cult of Powerful Personality

Collapsed charity Kids Company (KC) that received at least £46m of public money has just been the subject of a new musical at the Donmar Warehouse called ‘Committee’. That provides an excuse to reprise some of the issues found by the  National Audit Office  and Parliament’s Public Administration & Constitutional Affairs committee.

  •  Kids Company run by Camila Batmanghelidjh received numerous grants after claiming to senior politicians that it would close without them. Over several years KC received public funding of £42m in government grants,  £2m from councils and £2m from the National Lottery. At one stage the Inland Revenue also wrote off the charity’s tax debts of £590,000 .
  • Former bosses at the charity  denied it was financially mismanaged but in August 2015 it was put into compulsory winding up after problems paying wages and salaries.
  • Amongst the  issues were money handed out to Kids for drugs, large expenses for the families of two staff, a £90,000 salary for Camila  and government ministers over-ruling official warnings from a civil servant.
  • Kids Company  were allowed to rely on their own performance reviews.

Beatbullying – Cult of Overconfidence

In a public company or business it would be called ‘over-trading’. There is a reason why an organisation should stick to its core purpose. If they don’t stick to their knitting it can all unravel. Initial success for Beatbullying was attributable to its founder and chief executive, Emma-Jane Cross but from 2011 job losses and inability to manage their finances brought the charity down.

  • For several years Beatbullying did what it said on the tin and focused on helping youngsters with bullying prevention strategies. Then it formed the BB Group.
  • Under this expansive phase they started a service called Cancer Care Online, established an employment project ‘Future You’ and developed a befriending scheme MiniMentors and CyberMentors.
  • Overseas expansion of Beatbullying followed and by using money from Civil Society’s Social Action Fund created MindFull, a new online mental health service to add to the rapid but sadly unsustainable growth.

Concerns

  • Charities are no different from other organisations ranging at times from the good and indifferent to the bad.
  • Commissioners, Registrars and other authorities need to be able to resolve issues promptly and effectively.
  • In a challenging environment charities need help from all concerned to root out poor and damaging activities.

Fallout Shelter

Shelter, National Campaign for Homeless People Limited  registered in England 263710 and Scotland SC002327  was founded 50 years ago as a result of the fall out from the 1966 TV documentary ‘Cathy Come Home’.

Shelters current aspirations are stated on their web site ‘We strive every day to give people the help they need, and we campaign relentlessly to achieve our vision of a safe, secure, affordable home for everyone.’

In the short term Shelter is suffering from some self inflicted fallout following the Grenfell tower block conflagration and political posturing.

  • Sir Derek Myers, Shelter’s chairman together with fellow board member Tony Rice resigned from the charity on 23rd June 2017. Sir Derek Myers is the former Kensington & Chelsea RBC, and Hammersmith & Fulham LBC chief executive until 2015.
  • Tony Rice is the chairman of Xerxes Equity which owns Omnis Exteriors. This company was a fundraising charity partner for Shelter with permission to use their logo.
  • In a Guardian report ‘Shelter rejected accusations that it had been too timid in its response to the disaster, saying that it had prioritised the provision of housing and legal advice to Grenfell residents in the wake of the fire’ at Grenfell Tower.
  • Jon Kenworthy  former vice-chair of Shelter said that ‘Myers had been vetted stringently before being appointed to the role.’ .. “The current trustee board reflects the needs of the charity, with its members having professional backgrounds and experience in charities, finance and accountancy, HR, fundraising, business, law, property, media and campaigning and public policy, including housing,”

Looking back at Shelter

  • If the remit has been to ‘campaign relentlessly’  to make everyone safe and secure how are they doing on behalf of those suffering from public sector housing indifference?
  • With an annual expenditure of £60 million or about a £1 per head of the UK population are they delivering value for money? They certainly have lots of individual projects.
  • Shelter had £18m in cash and investments at the end of March 2016 but with 1115 staff this may be a necessary cushion.
  • In the 12 months to end March 2016 Shelter lost 7 trustees to ‘retirement’ making 50% or 9 in 15 months.
  • A quote from the history of Shelter at 50 ‘Our commitment is that we will never shy away from telling tough stories, or from uniting and mobilising the public, as our founders mobilised the public in the 1960s. Shelter was founded on a will to address a deep injustice in society…..’
  • How goes the war on the grim reality of slum housing?

Concerns

The febrile climate of political incompetence, media hype, commercial patronage and lost personal values needs to stir up more than just this one charity.

UK housing public and private sector is at odds with a fair and equitable society. If Shelter are to be part of the solutions, 50 years on from their foundation, they need some effective leadership, conviction and clarity of purpose.

There seems to be little or no grass roots tenant representation on Shelter’s board of trustees but an ample number of ‘professionals’.

The Art of Auction Acquisition

A. Alfred Taubman 1924- 2015 His Legacy?

Is it a done deal? It sure looks that way and there seems to be plenty of funds available so why not. Still there is a slightly bad taste to a deal to the Save the King appeal at York Civic Trust. The object of York’s desire is a 17th century wooden carving celebrating psalm 150 with King David playing a harp and Saint Cecilia playing an organ. It is said to have been created by  Grinling Gibbons whilst he was working in York.

It sold recently by Sotheby’s New York,  for $ 162,500 including buyers premium after a pre-sale estimate of $250,000 — $350,000. A small part of a $500m auction of Al Taubmans’s art collection.

Lets have a Fund Raiser

York’s appeal is for £300,000 of which £242,500 is already assured from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Art Fund and Arts Council / V&A Purchase Grant. The public appeal launched in April 2017 is for a final £60,000 ‘to save this panel and secure the purchase….’

Strange then that it is likely to ‘become the focal point of the exhibition Made in York: Inventing and Enlightening the Georgian City’ from 5 May 2017 (almost before the money is donated.)

Strange also that the art work was part of the estate of the Sotheby’s former chairman Anthony A Taubman. As the former chairman of Sotheby’s, he served time in federal prison in 2003 over his role in a price-fixing scandal with Christie’s.

The third strange aspect is an assumption that the art work will be owned by the  York Civic Trust 229336. In January 2016 this charity had over £3.6m available stock market investments. The management fees paid by the Civic Trust are £20k per year! The York Conservation Trust 504302 act as heritage property asset owning landlords to various sites in York.

Concerns

If the resources are already ‘in the bank’ why be disingenuous raising more money. If the intention is top up resources then why not say so. Poor behaviour risks damaging appeals for other charities and causes.

How open are the surrounding transactions and is money being wasted when it costs more than twice the hammer price compared to buying at auction.

It is not Charity Chit Chat’s role to question the who’s and whys of a deal that fits within the scope of the charitable purpose. However in the long term pushing the boundaries to the limit does no favours to the charity industry.

 

Charity’s Lifeboat Sold on eBay by Thief

In March 2017 the ex-treasurer of Cleethorpes Rescue Service was jailed for 2 years .  From 2007 to 2012 Roxanna Bridgland was the treasurer of this local charity after reportedly engineering the departure of the previous treasurer and chairman.

  • She has been found guilty of systematically stealing and defrauding the charity.
  • The lifeboat was sold on ebay.
  • Radios, safety equipment and other items were traded during  visits to Cash Converters.
  • The ex-treasurer also defrauded the taxpayer of £6,000 by making false claims for gift aid.
  • Admitted five offences of fraud, three of false accounting but plead not guilty of stealing cash.

The thefts caused such a “lack of trust in the community” that donations  dried up and subsequent rescue attempts failed. What could have happened if the lifeboat had been needed?

Charity Commission

  • When questioned by the Charity Commission investigators Roxanna Bridgland denied  responsibility claiming to be helping  as public and business donations to the charity declined.
  • 1085020 – C.O.A.S.T CLEETHORPES OBSERVATION AND SAFETY TEAM has now been removed from the register of charities.
  • Previous and alternative names include~:
    Cleethorpes rescue and lifeboat service (old name)
    Cleethorpes vigilante inshore lifeboat (old name)
    Cleethorpes rescue service (working name)
  • The charity has not submitted any accounts since  March 2011.

Concerns

When a lifeboat goes missing,( via eBay ), many folk must have known. A charity needs local support and involvement in more than funding.

The ‘warning’ this case could give others has been diluted by the slow justice.

As the Judge said ‘this has all been a result of your greed’.  Vigilance and applied commonsense needs to be maintained.