The former trustees of Kids Company have criticised today’s parliamentary report on the charity’s relationship with Whitehall, saying that the committee would have received defamation claims had it not been protected by parliamentary privilege.
In a statement, the former trustees – including the chair Alan Yentob, who stepped down from his role as creative director of the BBC after Kids Company’s collapse, Richard Handover, the former chair and chief executive of the retailer WHSmith, and Jane Tyler, a former partner at the law firm Macfarlanes – described the report published today by the House of Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee as "inaccurate, unbalanced and irresponsible".
The statement said: "It is a regrettable feature of British democracy that the committee can use the curtain of parliamentary privilege to produce what is an irresponsible report, immune from the defamation claims that would inevitably follow without this privilege."
The statement said it was "astonishing" that the committee had concluded that Kids Company’s trustees, auditors, inspectors, regulators and the government had all failed at every level, referring to PACAC chair Bernard Jenkin’s claim that there was an "extraordinary catalogue of failures of governance and control at every level".
The former trustees said that instead of basing its findings on a thorough investigation of the evidence, the committee had "naively accepted" allegations made in the media and by a small number of people, some of whom had vested interests in damaging Kids Company and its model.
"Practically no weight", they said, was given to the evidence presented to the committee by numerous witnesses who were closer to the work of the charity and only one of the charity’s eight former trustees – Yentob – was interviewed.
The committee had also dismissed the reports of leading accountancy firms, clinicians and other specialists who expertly analysed the governance, operations and finances of the charity, they said.
The statement said the committee’s naivety in believing the claims of a few of the charity’s detractors was highlighted by the fact that the Metropolitan Police investigation of allegations of physical and sexual abuse linked to the charity had found no evidence of any wrongdoing.
Referring to the report’s assertion that several former Kids Company directors claimed to have alerted trustees to concerns about mismanagement, sustainability and inappropriate spending, which the trustees had failed to act on, they said these claims were false and they had evidence to prove it.
The statement said that a "cursory glance" at the charity’s board minutes – which the committee had – would prove the report’s claim that the trustees "ignored repeated warnings about the charity’s financial health" was false.
It said it was deeply concerning that the report had been released at a time when the Charity Commission was carrying out its own statutory inquiry into Kids Company because the report could interfere with the proper functioning of that investigation.