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.