6 Aug 2015

Alan Yentob: ‘Kids Company allegations are disgraceful’

The chairman of the embattled charity Kids Company speaks out for the first time, saying there was no financial mismanagement at the charity and saying that he hasn’t abused his BBC position.

A week ago the charity received a £3m government grant but yesterday it closed its doors as it was beset by allegations of financial mismanagement, leaving thousands of children without the services that the charity provides.

Alan Yentob, chairman of Kids Company, and creative director of the BBC, tonight told Channel 4 News that he believed that the charity had operated responsibly.

He also said he has not been informed of allegations of sexual abuse linked to the charity.

Yentob confirmed that he had contacted BBC Newsnight ahead of a report on the charity planned to air on the programme — he says he wanted to know the nature of the allegations and not to interfere with the report editorially.

“I am not remotely considering my position at the BBC. I have not abused my postion at the BBC,” he says.

The organisation’s chief executive Camila Batmanghelidjh, celebrated by politicians of all political parties, who got significant donations from big names, stepped down after ministers ordered radical changes in the way the charity was run. She blames ministers and the media for getting it wrong.

‘Financial mismanagement’

In an interview with Matt Frei, Alan Yentob said:

“The idea of what I’ve heard some journalists call “appalling financial mismanagement” is complete rubbish.”

“I think [Richard Eaton, senior civil servant who said Kids Company was not offering value for money] is wrong. Excuse me. Are you looking at me, Matt, and asking me whether he knows better than I do how the money is spent?”

“The proportion of money given by the government is significantly less than that given by private donors.”

“We’ve also got audits from government auditors saying at the end of every year, including 2014, that we were well run and well managed. So let’s get that in perspective.”

The closure of Kids Company

Matt Frei: You kept being given the money, and now the place is being shut down. How did that happen?

“It happened because over a period over the last year or so, we have had problems raising funds, and the demand has been increasing of children.”

“All the allegations of financial mismanagement were tackled by the Charity Commission and an independent auditor, and we were given a free pass. So these allegations have not been accepted by the government or the Cabinet Office. Now, at that point there came in allegations on the same night… after we were given the money and put it in the bank, allegations of sexual abuse.”

“Let me be fair to those incredibly generous philanthropists. We told them ‘We cannot accept your money because it is not right, and we cannot even accept the government’s money, because we know that with these allegations around we will not be able to fundraise because people will say ‘What’s going on?””

Sexual abuse claims

Matt Frei: Do you know about these allegations of sexual abuse?

“I’ve no idea — and I don’t believe them for one minute […] One of the problems we have is that no-one has told us what they are […] I should have known about them — if we had known they had happened. No-one reported this to us. And of the key sexual abuse allegation that has come to us, we have just been through these figures and documents, and our data are very, very detailed. Do you understand? And there is no evidence that we were informed about a sexual abuse case.”

“I’m here today because I think this amount of rumour and allegation and counter-allegation… is a disgrace.”

“Can I just say, there is NOT financial mismanagement. OK? Am I allowed to say that?”

“The prime minister and Oliver Letwin decided that whatever the struggles that we had to raise money, there was not significant financial mismanagement. OK?”