Appearance before MPs is damaging to whole third sector
Watching the toppled heads of defunct charity Kids Company appear before MPs was beyond embarrassing.
Camila Batmanghelidjh, chief executive and founder, and her chair of trustees Alan Yentob, tried and utterly failed to justify any semblance of effective management and good governance.
The charity went under due to an array of oversights: budget deficits, a lack of reserves, overstating the number of its clients, giving out large sums of money to kids without having any say on how it would be spent … I could go on.
The story trended on Twitter – reaching seconnd in the UK and was only topped by #SNP15 – and the commentary made for brutal reading.
The demise of Kid’s Company is ultimately down to a total failure of governance by its chair and board of trustees. The sad thing is that it didn’t have to be this way.
Kid’s Company demise is ultimately down to a total failure of governance by its chair and board of trusteesJohn Downie
- Why weren’t the trustees holding the chief exec to account?
- Did the chair, whom the chief exec reports to, actually do an appraisal of her on a yearly basis?
- Did the trustees just believe everything they were told?
- Why didn’t they act when another charity raised concerns directly with them in 2002 and 2006?
If there’s a lesson to be learnt here, it’s that a charity shouldn’t be about one person. It’s supposed to serve the people whose lives it is trying to change for the better – in this case, vulnerable children.
Batmanghelidjh may now be shouting about their plight more loudly than ever. But the situation these kids find themselves in today is down to her and Yentob’s inability to run things properly.
The Charity Commission also has a lot to answer for. Why, for example, when another charity raised concerns way back in 2002 was no action taken?
I can only think that, with Kid’s Company’s chums in the Cabinet Office calling the shots (remember David Cameron and Michael Gove were falling over themselves to shower the charity with praise only 18 months ago), the Commission thought it easier not to act.
Ultimately the buck stops with the chair and trustees. They totally failed. In doing so they’re a disgrace to trustees everywhere.
Their actions, or lack of them, have caused serious and potentially lasting harm to how the third sector is perceived by the public, the media and the political establishment.
As trustee and chair of Impact Arts, I along with my fellow board members know that, as one of my colleagues put it, ‘you can never underestimate the power of good governance and boards, especially in challenging times’.
What I don’t get about the Kids Company situation is how someone was allowed to remain in the position of chair for 18 years. That’s how long Alan Yentob was in charge.
He should have stood down years ago. And if he refused to go, then he should have been pushed. As for the future, he and his fellow trustees should never be allowed to sit on a board again.
The fallout from this debacle seriously worries me. The effects will hit the whole third sector as the right-wing media wrings the story for all its worth, the word ‘charity’ dragged through the mud over and over again.
I started writing this blog in anger at Batmanghelidjh and Yentob for their arrogance, ineptitude and hubris.
But now I’m left thinking about what’s going to happen to the kids who’ve been affected, and who must now ultimately bear the pain.