Matthew Steeples suggests the disgrace of Camila Batmanghelidjh should signal the death knell for the “do-nothing” organisation that is the Charity Commission
News on Sunday that the controversial Kids Company boss Camila Batmanghelidjh had a “personal private swimming pool” in a £5,000-a-month North London Grade II listed Art Deco house paid for out of the charity’s funds is shocking but not surprising. Miss Batmanghelidjh, it seems, treated the organisation as her own personal fiefdom and as has been the case with many other charities, one has to ask: “Where was the Charity Commission?”
Miss Batmanghelidjh, the Mail on Sunday also revealed, allowed her charity to pay £50,000 towards contributions to the school of her chauffeur’s son, gave the same chauffeur’s sister a job making her “trademark colourful outfits” and attempted to justify her actions by snapping at a reporter: “Whoever told you this has been malicious”.
In the interview with Simon Walters, Batmanghelidjh bleated:
“I know who [the individuals who told the Charity Commission and media about what was going on at Kids Company] are and you have to question their motives. What they have done is wrong. The issue will be addressed. My heart is very clear. If I’ve shed any tears, it’s been for the kids, not for me”.
Reading this I found myself thinking of another once high-profile lady involved in charity, Lady Meyer. In 2009, Richard Eden – who at that time worked on The Telegraph’s ‘Mandrake’ column – revealed that “all but £9,500 of the money received in donations” by the “Chanel-clad wife of the former British ambassador to Washington’s” charity, Parents & Abducted Children Together (PACT), went to Lady Meyer herself and one member of staff who had been employed as her assistant. When questioned, Meyer attempted to justify the situation in a similar way to Batmanghelidjh and complained: “We are doing a huge amount of work for very little salary… I used to work in the City and earned much more”.
On this occasion and despite my reporting the matter to the Charity Commission, nothing was done. Their pathetic answer: “It’s a matter for the charity’s trustees, not for us” was no doubt used when anyone complained to them about Batmanghelidjh’s charity also. Six years on, as the case of Kids Company proves, nothing has changed and thus it is time that the toothless “do-nothing” poodle that is the Charity Commission was finally consigned to history.
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I hear Lady Meyer likes pointing her finger at people in restaurants and writing bad reviews now. You describe her as “once high-profile”. I imagine in five years, the same will be said of Camila Batmanghelidjh.
Isn’t Lady Meyer a friend of William Shawcross, chief of the Charity Commission? We need to know if Camilla Batmanghelidjh is a friend of his too. Time for some proper investigations.
The Charity Commision do a lot of good work too, however they have their hands full with the thousands of tiny charities they have to deal with. They did recently force the ‘Joanna Southcott’s Box’ people to stop accumulating their millions for the second coming (the ‘charity’ recently modernised Jesus’ bathroom; he can look forward to a power shower when he comes back) and spend some of it.
I comment from my own dealings with them. They are inept and have no interest in listening to members of the public who complain about badly run charities. They are a club that protects their own. It is time they were quashed.
Yes, omething needs to change. The big problem is that they have so many functions – not just the massive charities or ones with enough funding to abuse but also the plankton. I was trustee of a whole handful of local ones that had been mismanaged for the past 200 years – they actually still had Consols! The Charity Commissioners spend all their time dealing with the geriatric Mrs Grundys who run these things. But yes, I agree that the Kids’ Company is a warning sign that something needs to be done about it and a whole new approach is needed. In most of Europe, charities are just companies that file their accounts slightly differently.
I think that it is time for a proper and serious review of charities and the charity laws. Are there too many charities, should the rules of governance be tightened, should those offering benefits to members remain as charities, should bodies which are really lobbying groups have charitable status? We need a Royal Commission. Sadly the charity industry with its powerful leaders who earn obscene salaries will block any effort at change and the government will not want to confront them.
Quite agree with you Matthew. I am glad that this serious situation is now being taken up by the mainstream media. It is shame that Shawcross might appear not have been as independent minded as everyone had hoped.
I read somewhere that Bono the pop star raised huge amounts for his well publicised charity but very little was spent on causes..allegedly.
You could use something like the Charity Navigator site in use in the U.S. which investigates and rates charities.
I watched the leaders of the Charity Commission being grilled by a despairing but ultimately powerless HOC select committee. It was’ head in the hands with disbelief’ territory for all on the panel. Lady Meyers networking skills mirror the MO of the US ‘charity’ NCMEC . She was/is a close associate of it’s former CEO who now heads up the European version. Google it and weep at the findings of a congressional hearing into its activities which led to -er-nothing at all. Childrens charidees are no longer on my approved donations list sadly. Ask ‘missing people ‘ how many children they have personally found .They have no powers of investigation and twitter alerts from the general public are faster, more efficient and FREE!
There is a self serving clique which hands out sinecures to political/other friends…it’s known as the Establishment.
It’s very fluid….one decade Oxbridge people; the next Labour greasers.
It was the same in the last century…the one before that etc
Lovely people, Iranians….but always dishonest