Kids Company founder lashes out at "malicious, unprofessional" civil servants after charity's collapse

Camila Batmanghelidjh tells MPs there has been an "enormous amount of leaking from government offices" over charity's financial management

By Matt Foster

15 Oct 2015

The founder of the Kids Company charity has accused some government officials of acting in a "malicious" way following the collapse of her charity. 

Camila Batmanghelidjh appeared before MPs on the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee on Thursday to answer questions over the financial management of the charity, which folded in August soon after receiving a fresh £3m grant from the Cabinet Office.

Letters released by the government show that the money was granted to Kids Company against the advice of the then-Cabinet Office permanent secretary Richard Heaton, who has since moved on to the Ministry of Justice.

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Batmanghelidjh told MPs that while some officials had been "absolutely brilliant" in their dealings with the charity – which worked to support inner city children – others had sought to undermine its reputation. 

"Some civil servants have been absolutely malicious and unprofessional and have behaved in ways that isn’t respectful of a democracy," she said, before telling committee chair Bernard Jenkin that she would provide MPs with proof of her claims.

'Out of the blue'

During a fractious committee hearing, in which the charity's founder appeared alongside BBC executive and Kids Company trustee Alan Yentob, Batmanghelidjh said it was "very suspicious" that allegations of sexual abuse within the organisation had emerged at the time the charity received its final round of government support.

"Only our finance person and the Cabinet Office knew that the money had hit our account," she said. "Suddenly, out of the blue, we get allegations that we don’t even know relate to sexual abuse. Within hours, it was all over the BBC and news outlets that these related to allegedly sexual abuse against children by Kids Company. That was the kiss of death for a charity dealing with children."

Batmanghelidjh claimed that the terms of the charity's £3m grant from the Cabinet Office – which ministers said came with "clear conditions" for reform – had allowed for staff costs to be paid, and said the money was part of a "transformation and downsizing plan" to support an overhaul of support Kids Company's governance.

She also claimed that said there had been an "enormous amount of leaking from government offices into the media" in recent weeks.

"Right now the staff don’t feel secure because confidential papers from the Cabinet Office have been leaked," Batmanghelidjh said. The hearing – which ran for almost three hours – came a day after BBC Newsnight & Buzzfeed published documents revealing that both the charity's trustees and the Charity Commission watchdog were warned about Kids Company's financial position more than a decade ago.

Yentob told MPs today that there had been "no questions about the financial resilience of Kids Company" before 2014.

The National Audit Office spending watchdog announced last month that it had launched an investigation into the funding the charity received from government over the past decade, the grounds for providing that funding, and the way those grants were then monitored.

The move followed the publication of request for a ministerial direction from Heaton, the then-Cabinet Office perm sec, in which he told ministers he had "limited confidence" in the charity's "management and capacity".

Hancock and Letwin instructed Heaton to proceed with the grant, however, citing the conditions that would be put in place. When a permanent secretary seeks a ministerial direction from ministers, that correspondence is forwarded to the NAO as well as MPs on the public accounts committee.

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