BuzzFeed re-examines Give Us Time after my investigation

  1. On 29 April 2017, James Ball at BuzzFeed re-examined Give Us Time, a military charity founded in 2012 by Dr Liam Fox MP. This was after my recent investigation (see 20 April 2017 post).
  2. Special Correspondent Ball named and credited me. His report: https://www.buzzfeed.com/jamesball/liam-foxs-military-charity-has-still-helped-just-a-fraction.
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Give Us Time: accounts hide provision of flights for founder Dr Liam Fox MP’s staff

  1. The most recent accounts for Give Us Time, a military charity founded in 2012 by Dr Liam Fox MP, hide in two ways its provision of flights for Dr Fox’s staff. First, the two staff members are included within the charity’s beneficiaries, but there’s no indication in the accounts that Give Us Time considers them as such – or why. Second, the flights represent an undisclosed related party transaction between the charity and Dr Fox, the international trade secretary. Yet there were no related party transactions, according to the accounts.
  2. On 21 March 2016, Brexiteer Dr Fox declared on the register of MPs’ financial interests a visit at the end of the previous month to the Balkan Jewel Resort in Bulgaria as part of a group holiday for military families organised by Give Us Time (registered charity number: 1152978). The cabinet minister was accompanied by two staff members, whose return flights to Bulgaria were paid for by the charity, his declaration shows. The accommodation for all three, meanwhile, was donated by the Balkan Jewel Resort.
  3. The charity has recently returned from another group holiday at the Balkan Jewel Resort (screen shot in Figure 1). Give Us Time “takes holidays donated by owners of holiday groups, hotels, holiday homes and timeshares, and matches them with military families in need of rest, rehabilitation and reconnection after tours of duty,” the “About Us” page on the charity website says.

    Figure 1. Give Us Time tweets about recent group holiday at the Balkan Jewel Resort in Bulgaria at 13 April 2017

  4. Something not on the website: Give Us Time began as a collaboration between Dr Fox and Afghan Heroes (registered charity number: 1132340), the notorious failed military charity (see para 32 in my 6 January 2014 post). Dr Fox was a patron of Afghan Heroes, quitting when regulator the Charity Commission announced in December 2013 that it’d opened a statutory inquiry into the charity. That inquiry continues.
  5. Dr Fox’s staff were with him on last year’s group holiday in Bulgaria as “representatives” of Give Us Time, according to his declaration on the register of MPs’ financial interests.
  6. A few weeks ago, Give Us Time published its latest trustees’ annual report (TAR) and accounts, made up to 30 September 2016. Thus both cover the year Dr Fox and two staff members went on the charity’s Bulgaria group trip. Nevertheless neither record the fact that Give Us Time had paid for flights for Dr Fox’s staff.
  7. When I queried the omission, Rupert Forrest, public contact for Give Us Time, said in an email: “I do not believe it is necessary to break out the two flights in the annual accounts.” In response, I asked him to tell me where exactly the value of the two flights is reported in the itemised breakdown of the costs of charitable activities, in note 7, “Activities undertaken directly,” on p.9 of the latest TAR and accounts (screen shot in Figure 2). That is, under which item?

    Figure 2. Note 7, “Activities undertaken directly,” Give Us Time accounts made up to 30 September 2016

  8. The flights, he replied, were part of a group booking, which in turn is included within “Travel and accommodation expenses for beneficiaries.” Thus Dr Fox’s two staff members are classified as beneficiaries, but there’s no indication in the accounts that Give Us Time considers them as such – or why.
  9. The other way in which the charity’s provision of flights for Dr Fox’s staff is hidden is via an undisclosed related party transaction. Yet there were no related party transactions, according to the accounts: see note 12, “Related party transactions,” p.10 of the latest TAR and accounts (screen shot in Figure 3).

    Figure 3. Note 12, “Related party transactions,” Give Us Time accounts made up to 30 September 2016

  10. How did Give Us Time engage in an undisclosed related party transaction? Founder Dr Fox is a related party because he “has significant influence over the reporting entity” (see International Accounting Standard 24 Related Party Disclosures (IAS 24): http://www.iasplus.com/en-gb/standards/ias/ias24). Thus Dr Fox’s receipt, in his name, from Give us Time of return flights to Bulgaria for two staff members is a related party transaction – an undisclosed related party transaction.
  11. When I requested a comment on the undisclosed related party transaction, Mr Forrest said in a one-sentence email: “Give Us Time’s accounts have been prepared in accordance with the Charities SORP.” (The Charity Commission and the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator issue the Statement of Recommended Practice (SORP) for charities, guidance on their financial accounting and reporting: http://www.charitysorp.org.)
  12. Give Us Time’s response on the undisclosed related party transaction is clearly inadequate because it fails to explain the charity’s statement in the accounts that there were no related party transactions.
  13. The trustees are collectively responsible for Give Us Time’s actions, including its financial reporting. Founder Dr Fox isn’t a trustee, and so can’t be held directly accountable for the unacceptable lack of disclosure in the latest accounts related to his involvement with the charity.
  14. What’s worse, before preparing the most recent accounts, Give Us Time knew that there had been legitimate media interest in the return flights to Bulgaria for Dr Fox’s staff following his declaration: see the BuzzFeed News investigation into the charity, published on 31 July 2016: https://www.buzzfeed.com/jamesball/liam-fox-faces-questions-over-charity-he-set-up-to-help-mili.
  15. Give Us Time’s intended beneficiaries are “military families in need.” The actual beneficiaries, however, include Dr Fox’s two staff members – something hidden in the accounts.

Our Brave Heroes: fake military charity is no more, says Charity Commission

  1. On 16 March 2017, regulator the Charity Commission published a highly critical “case report” on Our Brave Heroes, a fake military charity from – yes, you’ve guessed it – Blackpool. It’s no longer operating, says the commission. Here is the Charity Commission case report: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/our-brave-heroes-case-report.
  2. It’s taken a while, though: I exclusively exposed Our Brave Heroes on 26 October 2015.
  3. Andrew Penman in The Daily Mirror newspaper then used my investigation as the lead story in his column on 19 November 2015 (see my post that day for a link to his article online). At the end of that year Our Brave Heroes also featured on 5 live Investigates, the BBC Radio 5 live programme, when I appeared again as a live studio guest (see my 21 December 2015 post).
  4. Mr Penman has today (16 March 2017) revisited Our Brave Heroes after the commission’s intervention: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/collectors-brave-heroes-told-generous-10032216.

Charity Commission opens statutory inquiry into Support The Heroes – and appoints interim manager

  1. On 27 January 2017, regulator the Charity Commission announced that it has opened a statutory inquiry into charity Support The Heroes (STH; registered charity number: 1155853) and appointed an interim manager: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/interim-manager-appointed-support-the-heroes.
  2. I first wrote about STH on 21 April 2015, exclusively exposing in my first post almost all the issues the commission says it wants the inquiry to investigate. That year, too, I revealed more about the unacceptable lack of clarity and transparency around the military charity and its business model (see my 11 August 2015 and 25 November 2015 posts, in particular). In its press release the commission says, rightly, that it has “serious concerns about an agreement that the charity has entered with a commercial fundraising company.” That unnamed company is Targeted Management Limited (TML; registered company number: 09036445) – a Blackpool firm incorporated in May 2014, whose activities this blog has exclusively exposed.
  3. TML worked with another military charity based in the north west, the notorious Our Local Heroes Foundation (OLHF; registered charity number: 1142029). The Charity Commission announced on 8 November 2016 that it has, finally, opened a statutory inquiry into OLHF, too (see my 23 December 2016 post and references therein).
  4. But it’s worse than that, as regular readers will know. Prior to working with TML, OLHF used the services of another discredited professional fundraiser, Prize Promotions Limited (PPL; registered company number: 07829587). And before PPL was the official professional fundraiser for OLHF, the company had this role for failed military charity Afghan Heroes (AH; registered charity number: 1132340). I first wrote about PPL and its role with AH in January 2014, just after the Charity Commission announced in December 2013 that it had opened a statutory inquiry into AH. That inquiry continues.
  5. Oh, PPL and TML are owned by the same person: Tony Chadwick of Blackpool.
  6. Three linked military charities – AH, OLHF and STH. Each is now the subject of a live statutory inquiry by the Charity Commission. On 2 October 2016, Andrew Gilligan in The Sunday Times reported my work on Mr Chadwick’s companies and the three linked charities (“Veterans miss out on charity millions as fundraiser keeps up to 80% of cash”). There he named me as the source and included quotes (see my 3 October 2016 post, which includes a link to Mr Gilligan’s newspaper article and the context). On 13 November 2016, Remembrance Sunday, the Mail on Sunday on its front page reported that the Charity Commission has ordered the opaque STH to stop all fundraising (“Shame of Poppy Day profiteers”): http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3930982/Shame-poppy-day-profiteers-Charity-banned-crackdown-raised-3million-gave-just-250-000-heroes.html. As you can see, I’m named and quoted in the front-page story.
  7. ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: I’m grateful to the Walter Mitty Hunters Club HQ, a Facebook group, for its interest in my work on STH, and help publicising it. The group first contacted me about the charity in December 2015 (email). The Walter Mitty Hunters Club HQ: https://www.facebook.com/The-Walter-Mitty-Hunters-Club-HQ-315222931946839/.

Charity Commission opens statutory inquiry into Our Local Heroes Foundation – at last

  1. On 8 November 2016, regulator the Charity Commission announced that it has opened a statutory inquiry into Our Local Heroes Foundation (OLHF; registered charity number: 1142029): https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-charity-investigation-our-local-heroes-foundation.
  2. At last. But why has the commission taken so long to open a statutory inquiry into the military charity?
  3. I first wrote about OLHF on 4 March 2014. That year this blog exclusively exposed the charity for both its excessive fundraising costs and highly misleading ways of working with a rip-off professional fundraiser, Prize Promotions Limited of Blackpool (PPL; registered company number: 07829587). Previously, I’d shown that the same discredited professional fundraiser had worked with failed military charity Afghan Heroes (AH; registered charity number: 1132340). I first wrote about PPL and its role with AH in January 2014, just after the Charity Commission announced in December 2013 that it had opened a statutory inquiry into AH. That inquiry continues.
  4. Despite my revelations during 2014, it wasn’t until March 2016 that the Charity Commission published a highly critical “case report” on OLHF, identifying “serious regulatory concerns” (see my 4 April 2016 post).
  5. On 11 August 2016, I revealed new evidence of multiple abuses at OLHF – serious charity abuse AFTER sustained intervention by the Charity Commission. My 11 August 2016 investigation showed that concerns about OLHF extend beyond fundraising.
  6. Within days OLHF had pulled its website (see my 19 September 2016 post) – and at date of publication it hasn’t reappeared. At the same time the then new chair of the charity, Des White, was no longer listed as a trustee on the Charity Commission public register of charities (again, see my 19 September 2016 post).
  7. Talking of Des White: on 9 November 2016, the Wigan Evening Post newspaper named and quoted me when reporting my investigation of Mr White and his involvement with another notorious military charity, again as chair, the Veterans Council: http://www.wigantoday.net/news/charity-chief-says-claims-are-untrue-1-8226307. (For the investigation, see my 17 October 2016 post.)

The Invicta Foundation: what is the trading address of official professional fundraiser EMS?

  1. The Walter Mitty Hunters Club HQ, a Facebook group, has this week exposed the Colchester-based charity The Invicta Foundation (registered charity number: 1143326) as yet another military charity working with a rip-off professional fundraiser: https://www.facebook.com/The-Walter-Mitty-Hunters-Club-HQ-315222931946839. These rip-off professional fundraisers not only have excessive fundraising costs, but usually work in highly misleading ways. They often create the impression that donors are dealing directly with the charity, wearing charity-branded uniforms. The public isn’t always aware that the collectors in shopping centres and other private sites are actually working for a third-party company – a company that retains for itself 80% of the funds it raises in the name of the charity. This blog has exclusively exposed many of these dubious military charity/professional fundraiser combos. It has exclusively revealed, too, the fact that so many organisations with this business model are from in or around Blackpool.
  2. Here I show that co-founder and public contact Stephen Robertson hasn’t suddenly become unwilling to answer legitimate questions about his charity and its official professional fundraiser. In April 2016, he was obstructive and evasive, refusing to tell me the trading address of the company it works with. What’s worse, he still wouldn’t disclose the information after I’d proven the link between the company and another Blackpool-based professional fundraiser – yes, Blackpool again – that has faced scrutiny for its business practices.
  3. The Invicta Foundation works with Events Management Solutions (EMS) Ltd (registered company number: 09807577), which was incorporated on 3 October 2015. The EMS website lists the company’s registered office address, which is in Birmingham. The trading address, though, isn’t shown. In April 2016, meanwhile, EMS was recruiting a “charity fundraiser” on the Indeed jobs website – from Lytham St. Annes FY8, next to Blackpool (screen shot in Figure 1). So at that time I first asked Mr Robertson for the address of EMS in Lytham St. Annes FY8. He refused to tell me.

    Figure 1. EMS job ad for “charity fundraiser” at 12 April 2016

    Figure 1. EMS job ad for “charity fundraiser” at 12 April 2016

  4. I then made the same request after proving the link between EMS and the company The Veterans Trust Limited (registered company number: 08945478). Andrew Penman had exposed professional fundraiser The Veterans Trust Limited in his Daily Mirror column in November 2014: the then Lytham St. Annes-based company had declined to reveal its fundraising costs, only divulging the alleged total amount of money it had passed to its then charity partner after raising money in its name. In December 2015, The Veterans Trust Limited changed its name to TVT Fundraising Ltd. Michael Figg is sole director of the company. Mr Figg was also a director of TVT Publications Ltd (registered company number: 09515278), which was incorporated on 27 March 2015. The registered office address was in Lytham St. Annes FY8. Initially, there was another director of TVT Publications Ltd: Nick Travis, the person behind Sterling Support, the official professional fundraiser for the notorious Blackpool-based military charity Families of the Brave. Both the Mirror’s Andrew Penman and I independently exposed Families of the Brave and its work with Sterling Support in 2014 (see my 20 December 2014 post and references therein).
  5. There’s a link between TVT Publications Ltd and EMS. Sean Smythe is sole director of EMS. And Mr Smythe posted a job ad for “magazine/wristband fundraisers” on the Birmingham Jobs Facebook page in the name of TVT Publications Ltd from Lytham St. Annes FY8. The ad is dated 13 April 2015 (screen shot in Figure 2).

    Figure 2. Sean Smythe job ad for TVT Publications Ltd at 12 April 2016

    Figure 2. Sean Smythe job ad for TVT Publications Ltd at 12 April 2016

  6. On 13 September 2016, TVT Publications Ltd was compulsorily struck-off the register at Companies House without filing any accounts. So much for its financial reporting – or lack of. Meanwhile, days later (on 21 September 2016), Mr Figg started another TVT Publications Ltd (registered company number: 10388268) – this time with a registered office address in Kirkham, a town midway between Blackpool and Preston.
  7. So it was a simple question for Mr Robertson in April 2016: what is the trading address of your official professional fundraiser? And he wouldn’t answer. But then he’s not the only one hiding the address: the EMS website isn’t forthcoming either. There isn’t actually much on the company website: no names of people, for instance. We only know about sole director Mr Smythe because of filings at Companies House. As we’ve repeatedly seen, there’s an unacceptable lack of clarity and transparency around money flows for these charities working with rip-off professional fundraisers. Yet on its website The Invicta Foundation doesn’t disclose the trading address of its official professional fundraiser – and won’t even do so upon request. Now, why doesn’t the charity want the public to know the details of the company?

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?