A few days ago I blogged about four very significant contract payments being made to Sir John Hayes MP, at least two of which raise concerns that go beyond the issue of the sums involved. The one contract that causes the biggest concern is that he claims to have a contract with a charity which on its website makes statements such as the one shown above and also “Esharelife Foundation is a grant-making charity which makes grants to support its charitable objects.” Now the problem with this is that according to the Charity Commission for England and Wales, Esharelife is not a charity, even though the website calls for donations on that basis. In addition along with John, the Government agency which is set up to check that ex-Ministers like him accept appropriate contracts also states Esharelife is a charity. For this reason I have sent the following message to the Charity Commission and also to the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACoBA) which endorsed the contract even though one of the committee members, John Wood was once a board member of the Charity Commission and several of the other members have worked for charities in the past!
Dear Charity Commission and ACoBA
I am writing to express my concerns at what appears to be either a series of incompetent errors or else corruption which involves an ex Government Minister and ACoBA and places the credibility of the work of the Charity Commission at risk. I look forward to your response as most MPs only engage with their constituents, even when their behaviour is having a national impact and companies claiming to be charities are unlikely to respond well to complaints. According to the Register for Members Interests published on 4th March for Sir John Hayes, MP for South Holland and the Deepings who was also an ex Minister “From 5 January 2019 until further notice, Non-Executive Director to Esharelife, 15 -17 St Cross Street London EC1N 8UW. Esharelife is a charitable foundation set up to support infrastructure and social, cultural, educational and humanitarian projects in some of the most disadvantaged areas of the world. I will promote Esharelife’s charitable work for an estimated maximum of 1.5 days per month in return for remuneration of £6,000 per quarter. First payment received on 5 January 2019. I consulted ACoBA about this role. (Registered 01 February 2019; updated 05 February 2019)”
When I read this register posting I was initially concerned because very few of the Charities I have ever worked with could possibly afford to pay someone £1,333 for a days work, let alone that sum for 18 days across a single year. In the case of those that could afford to pay such a huge sum, they would need to ensure that they only paid this fee if it was justified for the value of the consultant concerned and usually they would go out to tender for such a huge contract. In addition to this one I would suggest that an MP who is already a well paid public servant would be willing to accept a payment that was at much lower levels than this as charities are supposed to be delivering provision for vulnerable people and indeed according the Esharelife’s website that is precisely what they claim to be achieving.
My next step was to go on line to the charity commission website to check out that the financial arrangements for ESharelife would sustain this level of payment. This was where the much bigger problem emerged as I could not find any charity listed under their name and then when I doublechecked on the Esharelife website, it became clear that despite the warm words about their charitable activities, and their request for donations, that they do not list their charity number. So I rang the charity commission a few weeks ago and the person I spoke to assured me that no charity existed at the address of Esharelife, or that used the title or that involved the Directors listed for the company.
My request for ACoBA is that they review their processes and when future requests come from MPs or Peers, that if they claim a charity is willing to pay them a fee, that ACoBA do several things. The first is to assess the fees in terms of credibility and sustainability of the charitable sector and also to check that some form of assessment has taken place. The second thing is to check that the charity is registered on the Charity Commission website and then finally do a quick check from the website that the charities finances match the nature of the contract and the website of the charity is consistent with charitable rules such as listing charitable number on the website.
My request to the Charity Commission is that they check out Esharelife and challenge it for claiming to be a charity, when it appears they are not.
Finally perhaps both of you as Government departments could get in touch with John Hayes and ask him what sort of assessment he carried out before he claimed that Esharelife is a charitable foundation.