Charity website has disappeared – as has the new chair

  1. On 11 August 2016, I revealed new evidence of multiple abuses at military charity Our Local Heroes Foundation (OLHF) – serious charity abuse AFTER sustained intervention by the Charity Commission, the independent regulator of charities in England and Wales. Within days OLHF had pulled its website (screen shot in Figure 1).

    Figure 1. OLHF homepage at 26 August 2016

    Figure 1. OLHF homepage at 26 August 2016

  2. Similarly, within days the new chair of the charity, Des White, was no longer listed as a trustee on the Charity Commission public register of charities. I happened to notice his disappearance there on 7 September 2016.
  3. On 10 September 2016, meanwhile, OLHF updated its holding page, adding a phone number and registered charity number (screen shot in Figure 2). Then two days later a vague sentence was appended: “Our Local Heroes Foundation is under new management.” (screen shot in Figure 3). At date of publication that statement remains.
    Figure 2. OLHF homepage at 10 September 2016

    Figure 2. OLHF homepage at 10 September 2016

    Figure 3. OLHF homepage at 12 September 2016

    Figure 3. OLHF homepage at 12 September 2016

  4. It’s time for answers from OLHF. For a start, where has Mr White gone and why? And one for the Charity Commission: “New management” or not, why is OLHF allowed to continue as a registered charity?
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Ten reasons not to be cheerful about Beefy’s Charity Foundation

  1. Not a good start. The official email address wasn’t functional when I tried in May 2016 to contact ex-cricketer Sir Ian Botham’s charity, Beefy’s Charity Foundation (BCF; registered charity number: 1151516). I don’t know whether it’s functional now because I subsequently corresponded with a trustee at another email address.
  2. At least one of the two trustees’ annual reports (TARs) contains a serious error about the group of charities BCF has funded via grants: it’s a fairly new charity that makes grants to other charities. And BCF hasn’t seen fit to correct what should be the definitive record. So, three charities have received grants, according to both TARs: Batten Disease Family Association, Brain Tumour Research Yorkshire, and Cardiac Risk in the Young. The first TAR was made up to 31 March 2014; the second to 31 March 2015. Yet at 1 August 2014 the charity had apparently awarded grants to five charities since launch on 4 April 2013, £20 000 to each, according to a report in the Northern Echo newspaper: http://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/news/11383433.Sir_Ian_Botham_launches_charity_partnership_with_Rockliffe_Hall/. The five are the three above plus Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research, and Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Founding trustee Douglas Osborne told me in an email at the start of June 2016 that the information in the newspaper report was correct, adding that he’d bring the discrepancy in the public record for the group of charities BCF has funded via grants to the attention of the other trustees. But the charity hasn’t seen fit to correct the TAR(s).
  3. The independent examiner’s statement is invalid in both independent examiner’s reports on the accounts. This is because the independent examiner’s statements appear to be incomplete. Please see the Charity Commission’s guidance for independent examiners, “Independent Examination of Charity Accounts: Examiners’ Guide” (CC32). The key beginning of the independent examiner’s statements is missing; it should say: “In connection with my examination, no matter has come to my attention:”, if these are unqualified reports (see appendix 4 of CC32). (Qualified accounts are accounts questioned by an independent assessor.) Instead, the first line of the independent examiner’s statements is blank for some reason, making them unintelligible (screen shots in Figure 1 and 2). Mr Osborne told me in an email that in both cases this was a “drafting error” by the independent examiner (the same accountant for both accounts). He wrote: “…I do not consider that this invalidates the reports because the intention is clearly there.” In June 2016, I also wrote, twice, to the independent examiner, Rajni Patel, a partner at Silver Levene, seeking an explanation for his seemingly incomplete statements. At date of publication I’ve received nothing from Mr Patel.
    Figure 1. Independent examiner's report on BCF accounts made up to 31 March 2014

    Figure 1. Independent examiner’s report on BCF accounts made up to 31 March 2014

    Figure 2. Independent examiner's report on BCF accounts made up to 31 March 2015

    Figure 2. Independent examiner’s report on BCF accounts made up to 31 March 2015

  4. Fundraising isn’t a charitable activity. Yet both accounts report cost of “activities undertaken directly to fundraising” as an item under cost of charitable activities. This means that both accounts considerably overstate the expenditure on charitable activities. Fundraising costs should instead be disclosed under cost of generating funds. Mr Osborne accepted this point in an email.

    Figure 3. Sola Events homepage at 23 May 2016

    Figure 3. Sola Events homepage at 23 May 2016

  5. For each year, neither the TAR nor the accounts identify or refer in any way to Sola Events, the commercial events company (registered company number: 08506142), and its involvement with the charity (screen shot in Figure 3). Mr Osborne’s answer in an email was disingenuous: “The Charity Commission’s report template for a charity of our size has no provision for reporting the engagement of a person/company to organise a fundraising event.” I refer to the TAR template: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/trustees-annual-report-template. The paragraph “Transparency” in the notes for completing the TAR template is instructive. The first sentence says: “The Trustees’ Annual Report is a key document in explaining what a charity is trying to do and how it goes about it.” Sir Ian Botham says on the charity website: “We raise money from a series of high-profile events…” (screen shot in Figure 4) Yet there’s nothing about events in either of the charity’s TARs, let alone the involvement of Sola Events in organising them. Both TARs are vague, simply stating that income is derived “entirely from the voluntary fundraising initiatives of Sir Ian Botham.” Nothing more. It’s a shame that both TARs fail to disclose in full the business model of the charity. Further, it’s false that the TAR template doesn’t allow the charity to report its working with Sola Events. Section B of the form (“Structure, governance and management”), for example, has an optional part for additional governance information. Here the form suggests trustees might want to describe “the charity’s organisational structure and any wider network with which the charity works”. Critically, another suggestion is highly relevant: “relationship with any related parties”. While section D’s summary of the main achievements of the charity during the year can include fundraising, as the notes for completing the TAR template make clear. The optional “further financial review details” part in section E can include “the charity’s principal source of funds (including any fundraising)”. Finally, section F (“Other optional information”) could have been used to describe the events and the involvement of Sola Events.
    Figure 4. Charities and projects page on BCF website at 23 May 2016

    Figure 4. Charities and projects page on BCF website at 23 May 2016

    Figure 5. BCF homepage at 14 June 2016

    Figure 5. BCF homepage at 14 June 2016

  6. For each year, neither the TAR nor the accounts disclose that Sarah Botham, sole director and owner of Sola Events, is daughter of Sir Ian Botham. She and her company are both related parties to a charity in the name of Sir Ian Botham. Mr Osborne’s answer in an email revealed a misunderstanding of related parties: “Sir Ian Botham is not a trustee of BCF and Sarah Botham is not a related party to any of the trustees.” I refer to International Accounting Standard 24 Related Party Disclosures (IAS 24): http://www.iasplus.com/en-gb/standards/ias/ias24. Sir Ian may not be a trustee, but it’s his charity as the name BCF shows – “Beefy”, famously, is his nickname. Everything on the charity website is about him and in his name. He alone presents the welcome video on the homepage (screen shot in Figure 5). Press coverage of BCF is unambiguous, too: it’s Sir Ian Botham’s charity. He speaks for BCF: see the 1 August 2014 report in the Northern Echo that I cite above, for example. Further evidence that he has “significant influence” (at least) over BCF is the group of charities it funds via grants – “charities close to Sir Ian’s heart”, according to the newspaper. Clearly, Sir Ian is a related party to the charity. Daughter Sarah is, too, as a “close member” of the ex-cricketer’s family. And Sola Events in turn is also a related party of BCF because Ms Botham controls the company. Sir Ian’s charity fundraising is a family operation. She tells the paper: “Over the years the charities have become quite personal to us. My sister, Becky, has type 1 diabetes and my mum is a patron of Brain Tumour Research and Support.” It also makes clear that Ms Botham “organises his charity events”. Readers are invited to email her at Sola Events for more information. Similarly, her company and email address are on the flyer for an upcoming BCF event, The Ringmaster Ball on 11 November 2016 (Figure 6). Further evidence of Sarah Botham’s importance in Sir Ian’s charity fundraising is in a statement from Cathy Gilman, chief executive of charity Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research (now actually called Bloodwise after changing its name in 2015), endorsing Sir Ian Botham’s charity walks (screen shot in Figure 7). Ms Gilman describes how Ms Botham organised the “[commercial] sponsorship and logistics” of Sir Ian’s recent walks supporting her charity. She thanks the Botham family. Finally, in his response Mr Osborne overlooked the fact that Lady Kathy Botham, wife of Sir Ian and mother of Sarah, was a founding trustee of BCF, resigning on 22 May 2014. Lady Kathy is charity president, according to the footer on the pages of its website (Figure 4).
    Figure 6. Flyer for upcoming BCF event, The Ringmaster Ball on 11 November 2016 (downloaded from BCF website)

    Figure 6. Flyer for upcoming BCF event, The Ringmaster Ball on 11 November 2016 (downloaded from BCF website)

    Figure 7. Endorsement from Cathy Gilman on Beefy Walking the Rainbow Nation website at 16 June 2016

    Figure 7. Endorsement from Cathy Gilman on Beefy Walking the Rainbow Nation website at 16 June 2016

  7. For each year, neither the TAR nor the accounts disclose the related-party transactions – the transactions between the charity and Sola Events/Ms Botham, the related parties. Mr Osborne referred me to his response to the previous concern: “Sir Ian Botham is not a trustee of BCF and Sarah Botham is not a related party to any of the trustees.” But his answer to the previous concern is inadequate, as I demonstrate above. He failed, therefore, to address adequately this concern, too.
  8. For each year, neither the TAR nor the accounts disclose the actual, potential or perceived conflict of interest for BCF in working with Sola Events. The conflict of interest arises through the family relationship. In response, Mr Osborne said in an email: “The trustees appointed Ms Botham. She is a related party to none of them and there is no conflict of interest.”Again, he ignores the facts that Lady Kathy Botham was a founding trustee of BCF, and is president. Even more importantly, he doesn’t address the failure of the charity to disclose a conflict of interest. As daughter of Sir Ian, Ms Botham is close family and so not independent of him. A reasonable person might feel that the family relationship has affected the decision of BCF – with or without Lady Kathy as a trustee – to work with Ms Botham and her company. It’s reasonable to ask: Is it nepotism? Here the charity has a conflict of interest, therefore. It’s good practice to disclose both a conflict of interest and how it was handled. Charity trustees have a legal duty to act only in the best interests of their charity. For trustees to act in this way requires them to deal with conflicts of interest: see section 6 of the guidance for trustees from the Charity Commission, “The essential trustee: what you need to know, what you need to do” (CC3).
  9. Sir Ian Botham may not be a trustee, as Mr Osborne says. But he’s married to charity president Lady Kathy, of course, who was one. Further, hes linked in particular to one of the three current trustees. Founding trustee Naynesh Desai is a solicitor and has represented Sir Ian in that role. His law firm is the public contact for BCF. Mr Desai and the ex-cricketer, too, were both founding directors, with Adam Wheatley, of high-profile company Mission Sports Management Ltd (registered company number: 04321332). The link is longstanding. The non-independence means we can’t be sure the trustees are making decisions without being influenced by Sir Ian.
  10. The three current trustees aren’t independent among themselves: they’re also linked, which is a potential governance concern. Mr Desai and Mr Osborne are the two directors of an interestingly named – use of “Beefy” – company, Beefy’s Enterprises Limited (registered company number: 09578188). While Mr Desai and Paul Monk are also trustees of another charity, The Monkey Business Foundation Limited (registered charity number: 1149696). What’s more, Sir Ian Botham is one of “the people behind” Monkey Business Foundation, as an “ambassador” (screen shot in Figure 8). The non-independence among the trustees means we can’t be sure each is acting without regard to personal links.

    Figure 8. About Us page on The Monkey Business Foundation Limited website at 14 June 2016

    Figure 8. About Us page on The Monkey Business Foundation Limited website at 14 June 2016

  11. Mr Osborne refused “to enter into further correspondence” when I queried answers in his response. He referred me to the Charity Commission.
  12. Sir Ian Botham is rightly famous for his charity fundraising. But his high-profile charity shouldn’t be above scrutiny. There’s no suggestion that anyone has done anything illegal. Overall, the biggest disappointment about BCF is its failure in its financial reporting to disclose in full its business model. It’s unfortunate that the involvement of a commercial events company or companies isn’t made explicit. That the daughter of Sir Ian is sole director and owner of the company makes the non-disclosure even more unsatisfactory. In its financial reporting the charity should surely be clearer and more transparent about its business model. It’s time for full disclosure.