Founder who treated charity like a 'private business' banned for eight years

A poverty relief charity has been removed from the register and its founder banned after the Charity Commission concluded he had treated it like a "private business". 

An inquiry report published by the regulator says it began looking into Kenya Community Support Network in 2016 after Comic Relief suspended its grants to the charity amid concerns the charity was being used for personal financial gain.

KCSN, which was founded by Samson Ochieng, claimed its charitable objects included relieving poverty among Kenyans in the UK and in Kenya.

But the commission’s inquiry, which was opened in 2018, found Ochieng had been in effective control of the charity since it was set up, and its trustees had not properly exercised their legal duties and responsibilities under charity law. 

The investigation revealed £39,500 had been paid directly to the founder and his family without adequate record-keeping to justify the payments, and a family member of the founder had been appointed as a paid consultant to the charity without an open recruitment process.

“The inquiry found that Mr Ochieng had treated the charity as a private business, with cash withdrawn as if it were his own, with minimal regard by the trustees to their legal duties and with the charity providing significant financial benefits to him and his family,” the commission’s report says. 

KCSN was also carrying out marketing activities on behalf of Kenyan commercial companies in the UK, an activity which was outside of the charity’s objects.

The regulator concluded the charity's trustees were responsible for misconduct and mismanagement in allowing Ochieng to misuse the charity, which has been removed from the charity register. 

Ochieng has been disqualified from being a trustee for any charity and/or holding any office or employment with senior management functions in any charities for eight years from 20 March.

Tim Hopkins, assistant director of investigation and inquiries at the Charity Commission, said: “Good governance is not a bureaucratic detail, it’s essential in ensuring a charity delivers on its charitable purpose and isn’t exposed to unnecessary risk.

“The trustees of KCSN failed to provide this and instead, through their lack of oversight, enabled serious misconduct and mismanagement to take place. 

“Our inquiry has rightly exposed the failures of this charity’s trustees and Ochieng for his misuse of the charity, and he has now been disqualified from serving as a trustee for his conduct.”

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