The Charity Commission has opened a regulatory compliance case into a children’s charity after two trustees were found to be using it to further their own business.
A number of allegations were reported against Miss Dorothy.com and the Dot Com Children’s Foundation in several publications over the weekend, including The Times newspaper.
The children’s charity Miss Dorothy.com was founded in 2002, and centred on a cartoon character named Miss Dorothy Com, and how she could be used to teach children about abuse.
According to The Times, a liquidator’s report published in 2012 revealed that charity funds were spent on designer clothes after the charity received millions of pounds in taxpayer funding and enjoyed political and celebrity backers including Tony Blair, Prince Charles and Strictly Come Dancing stars Len Goodman and Kristina Rihanoff.
The organisation closed after the liquidator’s report was published, but its founders started a new associated charity, the Dot Com Children’s Foundation.
The foundation’s accounts for the end of June 2018 state that suspected fraud, involving two trustees “using the charity to further their own business”, had been reported to police. The allegations do not relate to the charity's founders or the most recent trustees, according to reports.
A second incident reported in the accounts involved the sponsorship of an event to raise funds for the charity featuring the American singer Dionne Warwick.
The event took place but the sponsor did not pay the £50,000 sponsorship costs agreed. Subsequently an events company supporting the charity had to be closed and the sponsor was reported to Action Fraud.
The Dot Com Children’s Foundation's latest accounts up to the end of June 2020 show the charity owes nearly £31,000 to creditors, down from nearly £171,000 in 2019.
The commission said it had previously engaged with the Dot Com Children’s Foundation in 2017/18 in relation to financial concerns but, based on the information provided at the time, it did not identify a need for ongoing engagement with the charity.
It said it has made no finding of wrongdoing at this time, and the potential concerns are being assessed by its compliance team as part of a regulatory compliance case.
A commission spokeswoman added: “All charities should take public expectations seriously and be distinct from other types of organisations in their motivations and methods.
“We have recently been alerted to potential concerns about the governance of the Dot Com Children’s Foundation.
“We have opened a regulatory compliance case to assess the information provided, and cannot comment further at this time.”