What happened to the The Ashley Foundation?
This charity was registered with the Charity Commission for England and Wales on 5 July 1997. It operates a number of hostels and flats for homeless people in need. A recent inquiry found evidence that the charity’s funds had been spent on the repair and upkeep of properties that belonged to trustees of the charity, rather than to the charity.
The inquiry also found that the charity’s funds had been used to reimburse expenditure incurred on the personal credit card of the Chief Executive, which did not appear to be in furtherance of the charity’s purposes. The items purchased included an iPhone, 2 Apple watches, a Dyson hairdryer, and a Spymaster tracking system. In addition, the inquiry found several expense claims that it considered excessive, and which could not be considered to be in the best interest of the charity. There was no Gifts & Hospitality Policy in place.
The Commission also concluded that trustees had failed to properly manage their conflicts of interest, and that the non-conflicted trustees should have ensured that obvious conflicts were properly managed. The Commission advised that current trustees should consider what steps to take to recover property which had been lost from the charity, in the best interests of the charity. ‘They should take and consider legal advice, the economic prospects of success and recovery to the charity, and the proportionality of their actions’. In October 2020, the Charity Commission inquiry referred its concerns of potential criminality, namely fraud and/or theft onto Lancashire police.
Some Key Learning Points – If you’re on a Board, ensure the organisation has:
- A policy on Gifts & Hospitality, and Board oversight of adherence to the policy.
- A policy on Conflicts of Interest, a Register of Interests, consideration at the beginning of every Board meeting of any potential conflicts of interest which may arise during the meeting, and a decision on actions needed to manage them (eg) requiring conflicted Board members to step out of the meeting when decisions are being made on those matters
- Recruitment of the highest calibre Board members, induction, on-going training and Board development, annual self-review of Board Effectiveness and, every 3 years, Independent Review of Board Effectiveness.
Some useful reading –