Comic Relief lost £380,000 to an African aid group whose director used donations to pay his mortgage and splash out in expensive restaurants, an inquiry has found.
The charity is said to have awarded almost £800,000 in grants to Kenya Community Support Network.
The London-based charity aimed to relieve poverty, sickness and distress among Kenyans and carry out research into living conditions in the east African country.
But an inquiry by the Charity Commission has ruled that its founder, Samson Ochieng, fraudulently used £380,960 of funds given by Comic Relief.
The probe found that the 58-year-old, from South Woodford, east London, made ‘treated the charity as a private business’.
The commission claimed Mr Ochieng made ‘numerous withdrawals from cash machines and had significant expenditure in restaurants’.
The probe, which was ordered by Comic Relief bosses, also found Mr Ochieng had made two payments, totalling £8,400, from the charity to him and his wife’s mortgage account.
Police have been contacted, according to the Times. However, Mr Ochieng reportedly told the paper he was unaware of a police investigation and that his ‘lifestyle spending’ was for the sponsorship of athletes competing in London.
Comic Relief lost £380,000 to an African aid group whose director used donations to pay his mortgage and splash out in expensive restaurants, an inquiry has found. The charity was founded in 1985 by screenwriter Richard Curtis and comedian Sir Lenny Henry (pictured together)
The inquiry was launched back in 2018 following a complaint to the Charity Commission by Comic Relief.
But before that Comic Relief chiefs had asked another charity to help investigate its concern over the Kenya Community Support Network, the report says.
Their own probe found there was evidence to indicate ‘significant concerns’ about the charity’s accounts, leading Comic Relief to request bank statements – which it has the power to do.
The inquiry was launched back in 2018 following a complaint to the Charity Commission by Comic Relief. Pictured: Journalist Stacey Dooley has taken part in Comic Relief
Comic Relief chiefs raised concerns after finding ‘numerous withdrawals from cash machines and significant expenditure in restaurants’, the report said.
This led the Commission to carry out an inspection in October 2017, which found 80 per cent of the charity’s expenditure could be counted for.
But it also found £15,000 worth of payments on ‘lifestyle spending’, which Mr Ochieng claimed were to reimburse him for charity-related work.
However the report said neither he nor the charity’s trustees could provide an explanation for two payments made to Mr Ochieng’s mortgage account.
Another £39,000 worth of payments were made to Mr Ochieng’s daughter and wife.
Mr Ochieng said some of the money was used for work in connection with some funding from the County Government of Bomet in Kenya which his wife carried out as a consultant on behalf of the charity.
The inquiry initially concluded that Mr Ochieng fraudulently used £380,960 of the £798,243 of grants it had provided and at least £570,671 of the charity’s expenditure was ‘inadmissible’.
But Auditors later concluded that about half of the money meant to be given to an aid group in Homa Bay, western Kenya, had been misused.
In its findings, the inquiry said Mr Ochieng had been in ‘effective control’ of the charity since he founded it, including the period he was not a trustee.
The report added that the charity’s trustees had not ‘satisfactorily discharged their duties to challenge Mr Ochieng and call his activities to account’.
In the commission’s conclusions, it said: ‘We concluded that there had been misconduct and/or mismanagement in the administration of the charity by the trustees, including Mr Ochieng.
In 2015 it was revealed that Comic Relief, together with its associated Red Nose Day (pictured: Ed Sheeran takes part in Red Nose Day) and Sport Relief, had raised more than £1billion for good causes.
‘Primarily, the Commission concluded that this misconduct and/ or mismanagement was due to the conduct of Mr Ochieng, for the reasons explained in this report.’
The commission banned Mr Ochieng from being a trustee or holding any senior management role in a charity for eight years.
It added that the other trustees had decided to dissolve the charity in light of the commission’s findings.
But the commission said they had been ‘slow to do so’ and instead issued a winding up order.
Comic Relief was first founded in 1985 by scriptwriter Richard Curtis and the comedian Sir Lenny Henry in response to famine in Ethiopia.
In 2015 it was revealed that Comic Relief, together with its associated Red Nose Day and Sport Relief, had raised more than £1billion for good causes.
Last night, a Comic Relief spokeswoman told the Times it had been unable to recover a grant of £356,699 from the charity and it was ‘currently reviewing legal options’.
Mr Ochieng meanwhile reportedly told the paper that the investigations were ‘flawed’ because they had not travelled to Kenya to examine the funding.