Unicef UK promises to publish review into top-level departures

Unicef UK has pledged to publish a third-party review into the resignations of its executive director and chair amid a bullying row. 

The charity said in a statement on its website that with the global Unicef organisation it had commissioned the law firm Morgan, Lewis & Bockius UK to lead an independent review of the events surrounding the departure of Sacha Deshmukh and Douglas Alexander. 

Deshmukh stepped down as executive director last month after claiming he had been subject to bullying behaviour by Alexander, the charity’s chair since 2018. 

Alexander, who said the allegations were untrue and a surprise to him, also resigned because he said that despite receiving the support of the board it would be inappropriate to continue as chair while an inquiry took place. 

Unicef UK originally appointed the law firm Bates Wells to lead a review, supported by two board members. 

But a spokesperson for the charity said today it had an existing relationship with Bates Wells and “on reflection we felt it was best to have an independent law firm that doesn’t have an existing client relationship with Unicef UK to conduct the external review”.

The move came after Deshmukh wrote to Shatish Dasani, interim chair of Unicef UK, claiming board members had been aware of concerns around Alexander’s behaviour and the issues were not a surprise, contrary to what the charity had publicly stated. 

The letter also called for the charity to appoint an independent third party to conduct the review into the resignations because it would be inappropriate for two existing trustees to take part in the review as well as solicitors who had previously advised Unicef UK. 

The latest Unicef statement says the charity will publish the report on its website, minus “necessary redaction to maintain legal rights of confidentiality”. 

It will also share the findings with the Charity Commission, which has opened a case into the charity. 

The Unicef statement said: “The terms of reference for this review have been determined independently by Morgan Lewis to ensure that the review is comprehensive, fair and impartial. 

“The review will consider and report on the allegations made by the outgoing executive director and any other staff members regarding the conduct of the former chair of Unicef UK, as well as the actions of the board of Unicef UK in relation to these allegations and the executive director’s resignation.”

Asked how long the review was expected to take and whether the terms of reference for the review were available, the Unicef spokesperson said no further information would be shared until it had been completed.

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