4 June 2012

Charity Commission Report reveals conflict of interest

Twenty seven months after the Charity Commission opened a statutory inquiry into the National Bullying Helpline Ltd, the results have now been published, revealing some interesting goings-on. The entire report is here: http://www.charity-commission.gov.uk/Library/national_bullying.pdf

Returning readers may recall a statment on the NBH's website home page regarding conflicts of interest which said:

"The processes between the Consultancy and the Charity are open and transparent and were vetted and approved by both Companies House and The Charities Commission when the Charity was founded. Furthermore, the Charity works closely with a number of Lexel Accredited Employment Law Solicitors who have also audited and approved processes in compliance with Law Society Regulations. Governing bodies and Associate Partners are satisfied that there is no conflict of interest as the relationship between the two operations are transparent and lawful."

This excerpt from the Charity Commission report gives a more objective insight into the "processes" between the consultancy and the charity, and the extent to which they were "vetted" by the Charities (sic) Commission:

"35.    From a review of the Commission's records, prior to registering the Charity, the Commission had expressed concern regarding a possible conflict of interest in relation to the Chair's position as a trustee and also a director of the Company; and as the husband of the CEO. In a letter to the Commission, the Chair informed the Commission that in order to address any conflict of interest issues, he would resign as a trustee of the Charity, and submitted to the Commission a copy of the form used to inform Companies House of the termination of his appointment as a director of the charitable company". On receipt of this information, the Commission registered the Charity.

36.    Following registration, the Chair continued to act as a trustee, and it was the understanding of the Charity's other trustees at this time that the Chair was a properly appointed trustee. By continuing to act as a trustee, the conflict of interest remained. In July 2007, he instructed the Company Secretary to inform Companies House of his re-appointment as a director of the charitable company.

37. On 5 December 2007 the Chair signed the CEO's contract of employment with the Charity. In so
doing, he has been unable to demonstrate that the conflicts of interest arising from his marital and professional relationship with the CEO had been managed. There is no evidence to show that the terms and conditions in the contract had been determined by independent trustees.

38. When asked by the Inquiry to comment on his appointment as a trustee, the Chair informed the Inquiry that prior to obtaining charitable registration, a telephone conversation took place between himself and the Commission during which, the Chair explained, the Commission had given him permission to remain as a trustee of the Charity and a director of the Company. There is no contemporaneous record of such a conversation. This advice does not accord with the Commission's documented position on managing conflicts of interest."

12 January 2011

Not-Quite-Closing-Down Sale

While the public waits for the Charity Commission to publish its investigation into the Bullying Helpline (National), the latter seems to be proposing to maintain its website, and is selling off copies of Bully In Sight.

Unlike a conventional closing down sale, however, the price appears to have gone up. The book's RRP is £16.95, and you can get it on Amazon for that price including P&P.  The National Bullying Helpline's website says the book is available from them for £30.00 including P&P, with cheques to be made payable to "The National Bullying Helpline".  

Why would anyone want to pay so much more to buy it from the NBH? Perhaps its because the NBH's co-founder and former CEO is mentioned on the acknowledgement page? Yes, that's right. In case no-one ever notices, the Pratt's website goes to the trouble of letting us know that her name is on the page, even pointing out which page:
"Christine Pratt, founder of The National Bullying Helpline, assisted Tim with content for his book and often assisted Tim with Employment Law content for his website also. See Acknowledgements, page xi of Bully In Sight. Send your cheque made out to 'The National Bullying Helpline'  etc etc.
This struck me as a bit odd, considering that the book was published in 1996, and Christine Pratt only started the job she got bullied out of - General Affairs and Personnel Administrator for Sanden - in 1998. She started HR& Diversity Management in 2002, and the National Bullying Helpline Ltd in 2006.

I have a copy of Bully In SIght, purchased in 2002 and signed by the late Tim Field, so I looked at the acknowledgements page to see for myself. As I would have expected, there is no mention of Christine Pratt on the acknowledgements page - (scan 1). Google Books has a copy from a more recent print run, believed to be 2005/6. Sure enough, her name does appear in the copy on Google Books.

2002 copy:

2005/6 Copy

Now I am not suggesting for a moment that Christine Pratt has somehow edited the book and added her own name. Any comments expressing or implying as much will not be published. Some of the other acknowledgements changed too and there's every possibility that Tim Field added names of people who had helped him since the book was first published.

I'm left wondering how much of the content she assisted him with.

6 January 2011

The devil is in the detail

Quote from the trustees of the national bullying helpline upon its closure on 6 January 2011:

“May we thank our founders, our Ambassador, our dedicated team of Trustees, Volunteers, our Sponsors and all Associates for their invaluable input over recent years, to this worthy cause.”

Extract from Christine Pratt's definition of bullying:

"The Bully is often charming and persuasive and may even be the ambassador for the employer in some way."

 Who is this ambassador the trustees are talking about?

National Bullying Helpline Closes

The following statement appeared on the national bullying helpline website today:


Trustees of The National Bullying Helpline Charity decided with regret at a meeting held on January 4, 2011, to discontinue the helpline service with immediate effect and take steps to close the Charity down.

The full statement reports on the sad loss to society ... (read here)

9 March 2010

Policies and procedures *not* vetted by the CIPD

A letter to the CIPD's  People Management Magazine with the headline "We badly need an anti-bullying service – but not this one" levels criticism at the National Bullying Helpline and adds: "I would also encourage the CIPD to review its support and relationship with this organisation". This comment is doubtless made because of the claims on the NBH website to operate procedures vetted by the CIPD. The letter is followed by an interesting footnote:
A CIPD spokesperson responds: "The CIPD does not endorse the National Bullying Helpline, has not vetted its policies and procedures, and does not have any relationship with the organisation. We have asked the National Bullying Helpline to correct its website to make this clear.”

Another journal for HR processionals, Personnel Today, contains an article this week which comments on the relationship between the NBH and HR&DM, as well as the CIPD's investigation of a specific complaint.

Meanwhile the NBH website has been updated with the statement: "OUR HELPLINES ARE EXTREMELY BUSY PRESENTLY DUE TO INCREASED DEMAND. If you are unable to get through on the phones, please keep trying. Your call is important to us. Alternatively, you can email us at admin@nationalbullyinghelpline.co.uk"

Yes, your call is important to them...

1 March 2010

Is Max Clifford representing Christine Pratt?

No, apparently. This from Civil Society Governance web site, 1 March 2010:-

"Pratt answered the phone at her HR consultancy business, HR & Diversity Management Ltd, but refused to comment and referred enquiries to PR expert Max Clifford. Clifford, however, said he was not representing her and knew nothing about the BAE Systems lawsuit.

“Christine came to me last week to ask me to give her some unpaid advice and guidance, which I’ve done,” he told Civil Society.  “My advice was that if you want to change perceptions of the situation you have to provide some evidence to substantiate what you said.”

Bullyonline Press Statement

The familiy of workplace bullying pioneer Tim Field has posted a press statement on his bullyonline web site

re: National Bullying Helpline Ltd / HR & Diversity Management Ltd:

Tim Field's family supported the launch of the National Bullying Helpline in 2007. Tim's widow Susan became one of the founding trustees in the belief that the project would have met with his approval. In 2008, after she had received a number of complaints about the charity which she was unable to get resolved, Susan Field resigned from the board.

The family has today instructed the National Bullying Helpline operator to remove all references to the Field name, including Tim Field, from their web site.

1 March 2010