Ex-trustees deny misconduct after Charity Commission inquiry

19 Apr 2022 News

The former trustees of Dream It, Believe It, Achieve It (DIBIAI) have denied allegations of serious misconduct and said that they are disappointed with how the Charity Commission portrayed them. 

Earlier this month the Commission published the findings from its statutory inquiry. The regulator concluded that married trustees, Matthew and Emma Dimbylow, had paid £975,800 of charitable funds to companies under their control. 

The Commission described former Paralympian Matthew Dimbylow as the “driving force behind the charity” and said he had “intended to extract funds” from the charity since its registration. 

However, the former trustees have told Civil Society News that the Commission's conclusions were “totally unjustified”. 

Their statement says: “We strongly deny the allegations of serious misconduct and mismanagement in connection with our roles as trustees of Dream It Believe It Achieve It (DIBIAI).

“Throughout our time as directors and trustees of DIBIAI we sought only to provide disabled individuals with access to, and the opportunity of participating in, sporting activities.”

The lottery model

DIBIAI was formed as a company in 2009 and became a charity four years later. Between 2011 and 2014 the charity raised over £6m from scratch card lotteries. 

The regulator became involved in 2014 following press reports that claimed 74% of the charity’s expenditure was spent on fundraising and following up complaints. 

Indeed, the inquiry found that only 5% of the proceeds went to charitable purposes, 70% was spent on the running of the lottery and the rest was paid to the Dimbylow’s external companies. 

The Dimbylows insisted that all the relevant lottery rules were followed and that other regulators did not find issues.

Their statement says: “DIBIAI raised funds through a successful lottery campaign. A large proportion of that fundraising was completed before DIBIAI obtained charitable status, and all applicable laws and regulations were followed throughout.

“During the Charity Commission’s inquiry, it approached the Fundraising Regulator and the Gambling Commission. Neither of those two regulators found any issues of misconduct and/or mismanagement against the way in which the lottery was conducted and took no action.”

A spokesperson from the Fundraising Regulator said that the contract between the charity and its fundraising agency pre-dated the establishment of the Fundraising Regulator in 2016.

When the matter was referred to the Fundraising Regulator in 2019, it determined “too much time had passed to definitively investigate and make findings”.

The Fundraising Regulator added: “The concerns brought to our attention were already subject to an ongoing enquiry by the statutory regulator and it would have been disproportionate to duplicate these efforts. However, we did seek separate assurances from both the agency and charity regarding compliance with the Code of Fundraising Practice. We were also informed that the partnership between the charity and the agency had ended some years previously.”

Civil Society News contacted the Gambling Commission for a statement, but did not receive a response. 

'We co-operated with the Commission' 

The Dimbylows said they co-operated with the Charity Commission throughout and provided evidence to show that all payments made were in the furtherance of the charity's objectives. 

“Regrettably, the Charity Commission did not take the opportunity to review much of this evidence,” the statement reads. 

A spokesperson from the Commission said: “Our findings and conclusions are outlined in full detail in our inquiry report. The inquiry’s outcomes are based on all of the available evidence, including the published accounts of the charity and its connected companies.”

Funds were not recovered through court

In its inquiry, the Charity Commission announced it had secured a settlement for misapplied charitable funds. 

The regulator issued a claim in the High Court to recover the funds. The Commission and Dimbylows then engaged in a formal mediation, which ended in the former trustees agreeing to settle the claim in 2019. 

In their statement the Dimbylows wrote: “We would like to reiterate that the Charity Commission did not bring a successful claim to recover funds through the court. It did commence proceedings against us both personally in 2019.

“Our decision to settle that dispute with the Charity Commission was taken simply due to the fact that we would not have been able to afford to litigate against the deep pockets of the Charity Commission.”

‘Greatly disappointed’ by the way the report portrays them

Matthew Dimbylow is now banned from acting as a trustee, and Emma has signed an undertaking not to be a trustee again. 

The Dimbylows statement continues: “We are greatly disappointed by the way in which the Charity Commission’s report seeks to portray us.

“We believe the report’s conclusions to be totally unjustified. But we also wish to express our genuine anguish that the charities, organisations and individuals benefitting from the donations and grants made by DIBIAI throughout the years will no longer receive the funding they so desperately require.”

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