Muslim Aid has commissioned an independent investigation into allegations of mismanagement and malpractice at the charity after a letter of no-confidence in CEO Jehangir Malik, which 5Pillars understands is backed by dozens of staff, was sent to the Charity Commission.
The letter, which the Commission confirms it has received, demands that Mr Malik and the Board of Trustees immediately step down for the good of the organisation.
It claims that since Mr Malik was appointed three years ago, he has overseen:
- The “financial killing” of the organisation which has a growing financial deficit of over £5m.
- Nepotism with a culture of unfairness and favouritism breeding a toxic office environment.
- A lack of independence from trustees.
- Financial wastage through “hare-brained” ideas.
- A high staff turnover, including recent departures of the Chief Operating Officer and Financial Director.
- The failure to implement a Zakat policy.
5Pillars understands that some Muslim Aid staff are unwilling to fundraise until the financial issues are clarified.
The letter, which was originally sent to the charity’s Board of Trustees, states: “We hereby notify the Board that the staff at Muslim Aid have overwhelmingly concluded that they no longer have any faith in the CEO Jehangir Malik or his ability to lead Muslim Aid. We therefore notify the Board with this correspondence as a formal vote of no confidence in the CEO and that by this action we are in dispute with the Board over their continued misplaced trust and support of the CEO…
“For months we have been harbouring profound concerns in the stewardship of this organisation and are prepared to deal directly with the Charity Commission on the issue if necessary. Staff morale is at an all-time low and a significant body of the staff are severely aggrieved and discontented…
“We are only doing this in the interests of Muslim Aid and unanimously feel that since the appointment of this CEO things have only got worse.”
The letter, which was sent by a “whistleblower” (which 5Pillars understands includes current and former staff members), goes onto say that the allegations have “the support of close to some forty staff, but this was ignored by the trustees.” This includes the entire senior leadership team which the whistleblower says has been targeted.
The letter also accuses the Board of whitewashing an internal investigation into the CEO.
“Staff have repeatedly requested financial transparency and the CEO has been avoiding this since he joined. For years now we have been asking how much money is available for certain projects, what is our true overheads/admin, how is Zakat being dealt with… and for over three years all that we ever hear is that him and the team are working on it and he will get back to us…
“Then we were informed prior to the departure of the FD (Financial Director) that our financial position was precarious with the initial report from our Finance Team that our deficit (Unrestricted) had exceeded the £5m mark for 2018. Staff were extremely worried to hear of this as it only confirmed all of our fears given the lack of planning and quite maverick approach to spending…
“No one person is bigger than any organisation or institution but if anybody needs to resign it should be the CEO. His tenure has been a disaster and the number of staff that refuse to join or work under him should be a wake up call to the Board.”
No Zakat policy
5Pillars has obtained phone recordings of a recent meeting between senior leaders at Muslim Aid, including Jehangir Malik, during which it was confirmed that there is no Zakat policy at the organisation. It was also implied at the meeting that if the organisation had a Zakat policy, this would have a negative effect when it comes to spending in other areas.
It is generally accepted that a Muslim charity must have a clear and detailed Zakat policy in place, which specifies how Zakat money is collected and distributed, otherwise Zakat funds could be given to general recipients which is not what Zakat is intended for.
Muslim Aid does have general Zakat guidelines on its website, which explain what Zakat means from an Islamic perspective and which focuses on how to calculate Zakat. However, it does not say how much the administration cost would be or which schools of jurisprudence Muslim Aid follows when it comes to distributing or ring-fencing Zakat funds.
In the course of research for this article, 5Pillars also spoke with several current and former Muslim Aid staff members.
One current member of staff, who spoke to 5Pillars on condition of anonymity, said that staff are very perturbed by the financial situation and the departures of key managers. The source said Muslim Aid is not being straight with donors because it is using restricted income (which has been donated for specific projects) to supplement unrestricted income (which can be used for any purpose).
The source also told 5Pillars there is no clarity on Muslim Aid’s Zakat policy (such as which Islamic rulings on Zakat eligibility and distribution the charity follows) despite repeated requests for the leadership to implement one, and that this has made staff feel uncomfortable about soliciting donations.
The source also claimed that the amount of income Muslim Aid spends on administration is much higher than the 12-15% it tells the public that it spends on these fees.
“Jehangir is not taking responsibility for the financial mess,” the staff member said. “There is lots of wastage on consultants who don’t do much work and there is no due process when it comes to appointments. There is also lots of tension in the office and frankly it’s tough to fundraise under these conditions and ask the Ummah for money. Jehangir needs to go, as do some of the trustees.”
5Pillars spoke to another current member of staff who told us that Muslim Aid is a great organisation which serves genuinely worthy causes. But the staff member said the leadership is destroying the organisation.
The source also complained about alleged nepotism and a lack of accountability over the way money is being spent, adding that the absence of a specific Zakat policy is very troubling.
“I feel that the trustees are protecting Jehangir. 15 members of staff were interviewed in the whistleblowing case and Jehangir should have been out,” the source said. “But it was not investigated properly and it was a whitewash. Over the past few years around 30 people have left the organisation and I don’t feel we are being honest about how the Ummah’s money is being spent. The baraka is dead in the organisation and it feels like it’s a curse right now.”
In addition, a former member of staff at Muslim Aid told 5Pillars that it was perplexing that there was no clear-cut Zakat policy and one can only assume this is because the leadership does not want Zakat money to be “restricted” in any way, but they would rather have the freedom to spend it how they wish.
Muslim Aid response
Prior to his appointment at Muslim Aid, Jehangir Malik served as the National Fundraising Director for several years at Islamic Relief before his promotion to UK Director for six years. He also had various other roles at the organisation including development director of Islamic Relief USA and deputy country director in Afghanistan.
Mr Malik was a founding trustee of the Muslim Charities Forum (MCF) and in 2010 was awarded an OBE in recognition of his 20 years of contribution to the humanitarian cause.
5Pillars approached Mr Malik for a comment on the allegations but he declined to do so. When 5Pillars approached Muslim Aid’s Board of Trustees for a response they told us that it would be inappropriate to comment on specific allegations while an investigation is ongoing.
However, they did provide us with the following statement:
“As you will be aware MA like many organisations has a whistleblowing process which is in place to ensure members of staff have the ability to complain about issues they feel need exploring.
“We are happy to confirm that this process has indeed been instigated and that investigations relating to it have been and are currently under way.
“Some of the investigations are being undertaken by the Board and others by investigators sourced from outside.
“Clearly there is a process to be followed in investigating and dealing with complaints and the Board of MA have been following correct processes and keeping the charities commission informed at all relevant stages.
“It is not really appropriate to comment on the details and findings of the process as investigations are still ongoing. It is worth noting though that alongside the original whistleblowing complaint there have been other issues that the trustees have uncovered that have also required investigation and concrete action is being taken now and in the immediate future.
“The Board fully appreciates the concern of all about how an organisation such as MA is and should be run and everyone involved takes this responsibility seriously. It has been clear that there are issues with the organisation and that they are not recent ones but long standing concerns that The Charity Commission as well as the current Board are aware of and have been working tirelessly to resolve.
“This will not be an overnight solution and the work of the charity and it’s considerable positive impact on beneficiaries has to come first whilst investigations take place. Muslim Aid is a humanitarian and development agency doing vital work in UK and around the globe and we thank the staff, volunteers and donors for their continued support and commitment to Muslim Aid’s mission.”
When 5Pillars contacted the Charity Commission about the whistleblowing letter they told us: “We are aware of the document you refer to and we will assess the concerns as part of our ongoing monitoring case into the charity to determine whether or not there is a need for regulatory action by the Commission.”
Last year the Commission found serious mismanagement on the part of the former Board of Trustees of Muslim Aid. The Commission opened a statutory inquiry into the charity in 2013 (before Jehangir Malik’s appointment or that of the current Board of Trustees) over concerns of significant financial loss, serious governance failures, poor financial controls and loss or misuse of charitable funds for improper purpose.
In October 2016 it appointed an Interim Manager who worked alongside the newly appointed CEO (Jehangir Malik) to complete a full governance and infrastructure review of the charity and a new senior leadership team was recruited. In addition, a new Borad of Trustees was appointed in January 2018.
The Commission issued a new action plan to the trustees to resolve concerns about the charity’s management and administration. It said it would continue to monitor the charity over the next 24 months to ensure it achieves these objectives and promised to “continue to hold the new trustees to account for putting things right.”
5Pillars has also seen a recent email to Muslim Aid staff in which they were told that an independent investigation into the allegations would be undertaken. This comes after an internal investigation was considered inadequate by many staff.
The investigator will be Moi Ali, a consultant based in Scotland who is currently the Independent Assessor of Complaints for the Crown Prosecution Service. Ali says she has no links to Muslim Aid and promised to have an open mind and to report her findings without fear our favour.
She wrote to Muslim Aid staff: “I am not afraid to speak truth to power. A couple of years ago The Times newspaper described me as ‘the fearless Moi Ali’ and another newspaper wrote ‘If only every one of Scotland’s secretive quangos, stuffed with obedient back-slappers and status-chasers, had a Moi Ali on board.’ Why am I telling you this? First, so that you can have confidence in me if you wish to come forward and speak to me, and secondly so that you can trust in me and believe the findings of my investigation. You can be sure that I will tell it like it is…
“Before accepting the commission, I told Muslim Aid that I would guard my independence fiercely, I would not allow any interference in my investigation, I would report what I find (warts and all) and I will go about my work as transparent a way as possible (while respecting confidentiality).
“My mind is completely open and I have absolutely no preconceptions. I intend to look at the allegations and investigate their validity. If I find that any are proven, that is what I will report (and I will make recommendations to address them). Equally, if I find that there is no substance, I will report that too – and make recommendations for rebuilding trust and confidence.”
Ms Ali said her final report would be published in mid-February. She concluded: “My hope is that this will be the end of the matter and that everyone will be able to believe the report’s findings and have confidence that they were arrived at in a fair and proportionate way. Muslim Aid will then have to lay this matter to rest, implement any recommendations and move forward positively – for everyone’s sake.”
When 5Pillars asked a staff member how the news about the independent review had been received, the source told us that suspicion and distrust were the overwhelming sentiments but that staff would cooperate.