Wednesday 15 November 2023

Soul Survivor donated £53,000 to a charity led by one of their trustees

In the last post I looked at how Soul Survivor worked with Tearfund on a project called Soul Action. And, I asked questions about David Westlake's role as a Soul Survivor trustee. 

But there's more to say about both Soul Action and Westlake. 

Tearfund ended their involvement in Soul Action in 2016. But the project continued. In this era Soul Survivor funded campaigns like Slum Survivor themselves. In these latter years the mechanism for decisions about the grants also changed:

"Having now ended the partnership with Tearfund in respect of the Soul Action project, the allocation of funds now rests with the Soul Survivor leadership team and trustees"

(Source: Group of companies' accounts made up to 31 December 2017, Soul Survivor filings at Companies House, page 51)

The trustees of Soul Survivor were:

  • Ali Martin
  • Andy Croft
  • Christopher Lane
  • David Westlake
  • Graham Cray
  • Jessica Jones
  • Keith Johnson
  • Tim Hughes (until January 2018)

And the Executive Directors were:

  • Duncan Layzell
  • Mike Pilavachi (until September 2019)

The Soul Action restricted fund still existed as before: ring-fenced funds with money going in and out each year.

Grants go out. They're larger amounts, to fewer organisations, than in the Tearfund years.

And there's one particular grant that caught my eye. In 2019 Soul Action made a grant of £53,366 to an organisation called the International Justice Mission:

Grants payable

(Source: Group of companies' accounts made up to 31 December 2019, Soul Survivor filings at Companies House, page 39)

That's a new name; I've not seen it before anywhere in the filings of the Soul Survivor charity. Which is unusual, as normally one sees organisations feature multiple times in these reports. 

In another unusual move, no explanation is given of their work. Remember how in the previous post, I said that most recipients got a paragraph explaining what they do? That's absent here.

Fortunately I happened upon that name some months ago. So, I know that that International Justice Mission are a:

 "global organisation working to protect those living in poverty from violence, slavery. trafficking and other forms of abuse"

And, guess what? Their CEO is none other than David Westlake. 

Yes, David Westlake the Soul Survivor trustee.

In 2019 Soul Survivor leaders and trustees donated £53,366 to a charity led by one of them. 

Westlake joined International Justice Mission UK (IJMUK) in November 2016, as recorded in the filings at Companies House for that year:

"after a lengthy search, we were delighted to secure David Westlake as our new CEO from November 2016"
(Source: Total exemption full accounts made up to 31 October 2016, IJMUK Filings at Companies House, page 7)

This is a conflict of interest. Was this donation in the best interests of Soul Survivor? Or was it in the best interests of International Justice Mission?

Westlake would have had a responsibility to declare such a conflict. Did he?

The leaders and trustees of Soul Survivor will have had a responsibility to spot and deal with such conflicts of interest. Did they? 

The signs don't look good. Unlike with the Tearfund relationship, IJMUK isn't listed in the related party transactions section of the Soul Survivor 2019 filing. And the scant details of this transaction point to a report author who doesn't want to shout about the grant.

In fact, I think the lack of listing of this relationship breaks charity commission rules. Those rules say:

"disclosure must be made of transactions involving trustees, related parties, staff renumeration and ex-gratia payments"

(Source: The Charities Statement of Recommended Practice (SORP), page 86 )

This payment happened in 2019, a year when all sorts of unexplained things happened with the finances of Soul Survivor.

Which of the Soul Survivor leaders and trustees suggested this payment?

Which of the leaders and trustees approved this payment?

This discovery made my look again at the work of Soul Action. The project had its own brand, presumably created by Soul Survivor. And this brand was used on social media channels for Soul Action.

Soul Action Twitter account

When you look closely at the posts on the Twitter channel, it seems like David Westlake was making many of the posts:

And I can't help but notice that, after his move to IJMUK, the Soul Action Twitter feed advertised job opportunities at that charity:

And also plugged IJMUK events:

IJM National Prayer Gathering

And promoted IJMUK campaigns:

Now, it's okay for a charity to promote the work of another charity with similar aims. The problem here is a trustee driving the cross-promotion when they are the paid CEO of the other charity. Don't they gain when their charity receives more promotion?

It's possible another person made these posts. But it's hard to imagine Westlake didn't see them. He could have asked for them to be taken down.