Non-disclosure continues at Beefy’s Charity Foundation

  1. On 13 September 2016, I exposed ten problems with ex-cricketer Sir Ian Botham’s charity, Beefy’s Charity Foundation (BCF; registered charity number: 1151516). BCF has just filed its latest accounts, made up to 31 March 2016, at the Charity Commission, and I’m glad to say that the high-profile charity has improved its financial reporting. So the independent examiner’s statement is now complete and thus valid, unlike those for the first two years of accounts. Fundraising costs are no longer shown as an item under cost of charitable activities, which is correct because fundraising isn’t a charitable activity. But the biggest disappointment about BCF remains: 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 still isn’t made explicit. That the daughter of Sir Ian is sole director and owner of the company, Sola Events (registered company number: 08506142), makes the non-disclosure even more unsatisfactory. The clear – but undisclosed – conflict of interest persists. It’s a pity, then, that BCF hasn’t opted for full disclosure. Again.
  2. There’s no suggestion that anyone has done anything illegal.
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Veterans Council: no accounts show how it spent the £0.5M from the LIBOR fund

  1. A small, local charity in St Helens that was awarded £0.5M from the government’s Armed forces covenant (LIBOR) fund in June 2013 failed to file accounts for the year before it asked to be removed from the Charity Commission public register, a Freedom of Information (FOI) request shows. Removed on 29 July 2015, Veterans Council’s last accounts were for financial year ending (FYE) 31 March 2014 – and these were incomplete. The table of contents lists pages not actually in the document submitted to the commission. Among pages seemingly missing is the “income and expenditure account”, so there’s no breakdown of the charity’s spending that year after the first injection of money from the LIBOR fund. No accounts for FYE 31 March 2015, then, and incomplete ones only for the previous year. So the question remains: how exactly did Veterans Council spend the £0.5M from the LIBOR fund?
  2. Scandal of war vets’ vanished charity funds” was the main headline on the front page of The Sunday Times on 18 September 2016. There and in a report inside, journalist Andrew Gilligan raised serious questions about several military charities that had together received millions of pounds in June 2013 from the government’s £35M LIBOR fund (see my previous post). Veterans Council, one he examined, was awarded £0.5M: http://www.gov.uk/government/news/38-million-to-support-troops-families-and-veterans-mental-health-projects. The St Helens charity had spent the entire grant “within about 18 months”, said The Sunday Times, without producing the promised “one-stop shop” for veterans, the purpose of the funding. Nevertheless Gilligan failed to mention the Veterans Council‘s accounts and its removal from the Charity Commission public register.
  3. Des White, the former chair of the charity, is quoted in The Sunday Times. I‘ve already recently written about White after he became a trustee of another military charity, the notorious Our Local Heroes Foundation (OLHF; registered charity number: 1142029), on 16 February 2015 (see my 11 August 2016 post). White was chair of OLHF, too. He ceased being a trustee of the charity, which is based in Bamber Bridge, Preston, within days of my 11 August 2016 revelations (see my 19 September 2016 post). The OLHF website disappeared at the same time (again, see my 19 September 2016 post) – and at date of publication hasn’t reappeared.
  4. On 22 September 2016, White responded to the criticism in The Sunday Times, strongly defending the record of Veterans Council, which was registered as a charity on 10 February 2011, in local newspaper the St Helens Reporter: www.sthelensreporter.co.uk/news/borough-charity-hits-back-at-waste-claims-1-8141130.
  5. As I said, I‘ve already recently written about White. But Veterans Council (registered charity number: 1140336) was removed from the Charity Commission public register on 29 July 2015. It’s therefore impossible to access the charity’s trustees’ annual reports (TARs) and accounts via the public register. I’d seen evidence that the St Helens charity is linked to a new charity, also called Veterans Council (registered charity number: 1159215). At 18 December 2014, for example, Veterans Council used both registered charity numbers on its homepage: web.archive.org/web/20141218124339/http://veteranscouncil.org/. Based in Lytham St Annes, Veterans Council (1159215) was registered as a charity on 14 November 2014 and at date of publication hasn’t filed any accounts.
  6. Trustee Edward Nash is the public contact for Veterans Council (1159215), according to the Charity Commission public register. Nearly two years old, at date of publication Veterans Council (1159215) doesn’t have a website; while days ago – at 2 October 2016 – there was only a very rudimentary holding page with no indication of its activities, if any: web.archive.org/web/20161002045832/http://veteranscouncil.org.uk/. That holding page has now vanished. Interestingly, Nash is also linked to OLHF: at date of publication his personal Twitter page (@nashnet) specifies OLHF as his associated website, not Veterans Council (1159215) (screen shot in Figure 1). Gilligan quoted Nash, identifying him as the new chair of Veterans Council. Yet Gilligan failed to refer explicitly to the two entities, White’s Veterans Council in St Helens (1140336) and Nash’s Veterans Council in Lytham St Annes (1159215).

    Figure 1. Ed (Edward) Nash's Twitter page at 10 August 2016

    Figure 1. Ed (Edward) Nash’s Twitter page at 10 August 2016

  7. Nash criticised Veterans Council‘s record under White: “It was quite unprofessional, and it wasn’t viable. They didn’t seem to do much. The main expenditure was the wages bill, which was about £100k a year.” The new chair also slammed the charity for blowing “about £30k” on furniture for its office. Clearly, he was happy to talk to The Sunday Times. Yet earlier in the summer Nash had ignored my two emails (18 August 2016 and 1 September 2016) requesting all of Veterans Council‘s (1140336) TARs and accounts. I didn’t receive a response to either message.
  8. On 8 September 2016, I therefore submitted a FOI request to the Charity Commission to obtain all of Veterans Council‘s (1140336) TARs and accounts. I got a response on 6 October 2016: the commission provided three TARs and accounts – for FYE (all 31 March) 2012, 2013 and 2014. The first thing to note, then, is that Veterans Council (1140336) failed to file accounts for the year before it asked to be removed from the Charity Commission public register, as removal was on 29 July 2015. In other words, there are no accounts for FYE 31 March 2015. The second thing is that the accounts for FYE 31 March 2014 are incomplete: 1drv.ms/b/s!Alhjj9hr_-o0gSTZjHlDJ-7prhIt. As you can see, the table of contents lists pages not actually in the document submitted to the commission. Among pages seemingly missing is the “income and expenditure account”, so theres no breakdown of the charity’s spending that year after the first injection of money from the LIBOR fund.
  9. The Charity Commission confirmed that the accounts for FYE 31 March 2014 are as submitted by the charity. No accounts for FYE 31 March 2015, then, and incomplete ones only for the previous year. So the question remains: how exactly did Veterans Council spend the £0.5M from the LIBOR fund?

The Warrior Programme: which Prof Neil Greenberg is speaking?

  1. We just don’t know whether it works at all,” said Prof Neil Greenberg in the lead story on the front page of The Sunday Times on 18 September 2016. The influential academic psychiatrist was talking about a new therapeutic approach, from charity the Warrior Programme, for military veterans with mental health problems. Damning, particularly as he was involved in the independent evaluation of the intervention via a randomised controlled trial (RCT). Hang on though, Prof Greenberg occupies many more different roles than the two identified in the newspaper, professor of defence mental health at King’s College London and lead for military and veterans’ health at the Royal College of Psychiatrists. He’s a director of Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT), for example, the charity that funded the RCT. And it interpreted the results of the trial rather differently. There was “a positive outcome,” said FiMT in June 2015, adding: “ex-service personnel do indeed benefit from this intervention.” To further the confusion, Prof Nicola Fear, a colleague of Prof Greenberg at King’s in the academic department of military mental health (ADMMH), became a trustee of the Warrior Programme in November 2015. She’d collaborated with Prof Greenberg on the analysis of the RCT results. As a trustee, Prof Fear demonstrates support for the charity.
  2. In 2013, FiMT (registered charity number: 1145688) awarded £79.5k to the Warrior Programme (registered charity number: 1120893) for an independent evaluation of its new intervention via a RCT. In June 2015, the Warrior Programme published the results of the trial as a brochure, available on its website: www.warriorprogramme.org.uk/files/Warrior_Programme_RCT_brochure-LR.pdf. In his introduction Air Vice-Marshal Ray Lock, FiMT chief executive, commended Warrior for electing to test the effectiveness of its therapeutic approach via a RCT. His organisation was “delighted that the bold step the Warrior Programme took has been repaid by a positive outcome – ex-service personnel do indeed benefit from this intervention.” The report “supported the Warrior Programme in their work,” said the Trust. (Air Vice-Marshal Lock was clearly speaking for his employer, not in a personal capacity.) FiMT again referred to the “positive outcome” of the trial in its directors’ annual report for financial year ending 31 December 2015, explaining that the “positive outcome” had helped Warrior to secure “core and expansion funding”. (In August 2015, the Warrior Programme was awarded £1.07M by the Big Lottery Fund, for example.)
  3. There was no mention of FiMT in The Sunday Times on 18 September 2016, nor the fact that Prof Greenberg has been a director since December 2014. FiMT has a single corporate trustee, FIM Trustee Limited (registered company number: 07855145). He’s actually a director of FIM Trustee Limited.
  4. On the Warrior Programme approach, Prof Greenberg told the newspaper: “we just don’t know whether it works at all”. The trial “did not provide evidence that this technique should be rolled out. It was rather embarrassing how people at the launch were saying this was great, the Warrior Programme has come of age, and I was thinking, that’s not what the academic bit of the study says.” The psychiatrist apparently neglected to say that those acclaiming the Warrior Programme included FiMT, as the brochure shows. As a director he shares collective responsibility for the Trust’s actions, including the directors’ annual report also hailing the “positive outcome” of the trial. Further, FiMT made an unambiguous statement on its website at the launch of the RCT findings: “The results of the RCT have demonstrated the effectiveness of the Warrior Programme and provide evidence-based research from which other services can benefit.” (screen shot in Figure 1)

    Figure 1. Forces in Mind Trust website: 30 June 2015 press release (date of capture: 26 September 2016)

    Figure 1. Forces in Mind Trust website: 30 June 2015 press release (date of capture: 26 September 2016)

  5. It’d surely have been appropriate for Prof Greenberg to declare a relevant interest to The Sunday Times – namely he’s a director of FiMT. We don’t know what he actually told the newspaper (obviously), only what it reported. I therefore asked Prof Greenberg in an email whether he’d disclosed that he’s a director of the Trust to Andrew Gilligan, author of both reports on 18 September 2016. In his response Prof Greenberg declined to answer the question.
  6. It’s unfortunate that the Warrior Programme brochure of the trial results, too, fails to disclose anywhere that Prof Greenberg is a director of FiMT. Again, the reader should surely know this.
  7. It’s a shame that Prof Greenberg’s stance on the Warrior Programme and its RCT apparently varies according to his role. The inconsistency risks undermining not only his credibility, but also that of the organisations whose roles he occupies.
  8. In an email Prof Greenberg denied varying his stance on the Warrior Programme and its RCT. Though he accepted that he disagrees with FiMT’s view. Nevertheless collective responsibility means that as a director of the Trust he’s jointly responsible for its public stance. Hence, I argue, the variation by role in his stance.
  9. To further the confusion, Prof Nicola Fear, a colleague of Prof Greenberg at King’s in the ADMMH, became a trustee of the Warrior Programme in November 2015. She’d collaborated with Prof Greenberg on the analysis of the RCT results, the June 2015 brochure shows. As a trustee, Prof Fear demonstrates support for the charity.
  10. Finally, I want to make clear that here I’m not making a case for or against the Warrior Programme and its therapeutic approach. Rather, I’m raising my concern at the apparent variation by role in Prof Greenberg’s stance on the Warrior Programme and its RCT. The discrepancy identified suggests that his opinions, regularly quoted in the media, should be interpreted with reference to his many different roles. My intention too is to highlight the fact that colleague and collaborator Prof Fear is now a trustee of the Warrior Programme. Her becoming a trustee is a clear indication of support for the charity.

Charity Commission issues update on Afghan Heroes inquiry

  1. After our revelations in The Sunday Times newspaper two days ago (see previous post), the Charity Commission today (4 October 2016) issued an update on its statutory inquiry into Afghan Heroes, the notorious failed military charity (registered charity number: 1132340).
  2. In short, the inquiry, which opened in November 2013, continues: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/update-on-afghan-heroes-inquiry.

Charity Commission seeks £2.9M from Prize Promotions Limited

  1. On 2 October 2016, The Sunday Times newspaper reported that the Charity Commission wants £2.9M from Prize Promotions Limited, the Blackpool-based rip-off professional fundraiser (PPL; registered company number: 07829587). PPL was the official professional fundraiser for Afghan Heroes, the notorious failed military charity (registered charity number: 1132340).
  2. PPL is now in liquidation. But documents filed at Companies House show that the business is being pursued by the Charity Commission for £2.9M over its involvement with Afghan Heroes. I brought this fact to the attention of Andrew Gilligan at The Sunday Times.
  3. Gilligan‘s report (“Veterans miss out on charity millions as fundraiser keeps up to 80% of cash”) is available on the newspaper’s website, behind a paywall: http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/veterans-miss-out-on-charity-millions-as-fundraiser-keeps-up-to-80-of-cash-wjhcjcqjb. Here too is a scanned copy of the page for those like me outside the paywall: the-sunday-times-2-october-2016.