Watchdog warns charity where Meghan was among star guestson January 20, 2024 at 12:44 am

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The Charity Commission raises concerns about a youth charity with celebrity speakers.

Meghan in ManchesterImage source, Reuters

A youth organisation which holds high-profile events with famous guests, including the Duchess of Sussex and Bob Geldof, has been sent an official warning by the charity watchdog.

The Charity Commission criticised One Young World for “unauthorised payments” to a staff member and a lack of accurate records.

Meghan was the star speaker at one of its events in Manchester in 2022.

There is no suggestion of wrongdoing from any of the celebrity speakers.

In response, the charity issued a statement: “One Young World is naturally disappointed at the Charity Commission’s findings over two limited administrative errors.”

The Charity Commission issued One Young World with an “official warning”, which is when the regulator finds a breach of trust, misconduct or mismanagement.

The charity has run a number of well-publicised summits, with celebrity names promoting youth leadership to an international audience.

Young delegates, according to the charity’s website, are “counselled by influential political, business and humanitarian leaders”, including figures such as Justin Trudeau, Richard Branson, Bob Geldof, Cher, Queen Rania of Jordan and Emma Watson.

In September 2022, Meghan spoke at the charity’s summit in Manchester, in her first speech in the UK since stepping down as a “working royal”.

At the event, where fees for young delegates cost up to £3,000, Meghan encouraged young people by talking about her own sense of self-doubt.

There is no criticism of guest speakers at such events. The charity watchdog warned One Young World over “governance failings and breaches of trust by the charity’s trustees”.

The watchdog found:

  • a lack of evidence that conflicts of interest have been effectively managed
  • unauthorised payments to a connected person employed by the charity’s trading subsidiary
  • poor minute-taking

The Charity Commission says it intervened in 2022 following concerns raised about “senior staff salaries and bonuses paid by the charity”.

However, the watchdog says it accepts that “trustees made these bonus payments in good faith at the time”.

In the 12 months to December 2022, the charity’s chief executive Kate Robertson received £225,088 and her daughter and managing director Ella Robertson McKay received £115,008.

The Charity Commission’s Tracy Howarth said their findings had “uncovered governance errors” around preventing conflicts of interest, but welcomed efforts by the trustees in “addressing past failings”.

The watchdog said it had “engaged with the trustees extensively, providing advice which the charity has already implemented, including the CEO of the charity stepping down as a trustee last year”.

A spokesman for One Young World said the issues highlighted by the Charity Commission were the result of “historic mistakes in legal processes” and blamed the trustees “placing reliance on their former professional advisers, which they did in entirely good faith”.

“There is no suggestion whatsoever that any senior executives nor trustees did anything wilfully wrong or untoward in either case,” says the charity, which has made changes so that these “technical errors” do not happen again.

On payments to the charity’s bosses, representatives said that “senior executives’ salaries are externally benchmarked with the salaries of executives of other similar international charities and corporate organisations that have global footprints”.

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