The former Chelsea football player Didier Drogba has said he plans to sue the Daily Mail over its coverage of his charitable foundation after the Charity Commission cleared the charity of fraud and corruption.
In a case report published today, the commission said it was satisfied funds had not been misapplied and there was no evidence of fraud or corruption. But the report said it had found failures in governance and the charity might have misled donors.
The commission opened a case into the Didier Drogba Foundation in April after the Daily Mail alleged the charity had spent less than 1 per cent of the funds it raised in the UK on its object of promoting health in the Ivory Coast.
"The commission found failures in the charity’s governance, with poor record-keeping and accounts that did not meet regulations," the regulator said in a statement that accompanied the case report.
"However, it can also confirm that, despite poor governance, there was no evidence of fraud or corruption on behalf of the charity."
In a statement released today, Drogba said: "This supports what we always said from the start, which is that the claims made by the Daily Mail back in April were entirely false.
"I have instructed my lawyers to seek a full apology and damages to be paid to my foundation from the Daily Mail."
According to the charity’s UK accounts for the year to 30 November 2014, the most recent available on the Charity Commission website, the charity had almost £1.2m in the bank but spent only £14,115 on a hospital project over the course of the year.
The trustees said they had been unable to spend the funds because of the political situation in Ivory Coast, but the commission found the charity had failed to adequately explain this to donors, who it said would have expected to see the money spent on charitable purposes, not accumulating in a bank account.
The charity also listed the cost of three fundraising balls as charitable activities, rather than fundraising costs, which the commission said was misleading to potential donors.
The commission also questioned the charity about what it described as "discrepancies" between the lack of spending revealed in the charity’s accounts and the level of charitable activity it claimed to have carried out in published material.
The trustees said much of the activity had been carried out by a separate foundation, La Fondation Didier Drogba, operating in the Ivory Coast but not in the UK, and funded by Drogba. But the commission said the lack of distinction between the two entities might have misled donors about how their money was being used.
In its report, the commission advises the charity to take on an extra trustee. When the case was opened, the charity had only two trustees rather than the three required by its governing document, and neither was resident in the UK.
A third has now been appointed, but the commission warns in the report that as the board now includes Drogba and two people who have a professional relationship with him, there could be "conflicts of loyalties" without additional board members.
A spokesman for the Daily Mail said the report did not exonerate the Didier Drogba Foundation, but instead had confirmed the allegations it had made about the charity’s spending, the fundraising balls, the misleading of donors and the governance arrangements.
He said: "The report does state that it found no evidence of fraud or corruption at the Didier Drogba Foundation. However, the Daily Mail never accused the charity of fraud or corruption."