Charity chiefs slam Didier Drogba's foundation after spending money on parties

Charity chiefs slam Didier Drogba's foundation after spending money on parties

Charity chiefs slam Didier Drogba's foundation after spending money on parties

  • The Didier Drogba Foundation was found to have misled donors 
  • They thought money went to Africa but only £14k went to good causes
  • Foundation must now appoint new independent trustees for scrutiny 

Paul Bentley Deputy Investigations Editor

A football star’s charity misled donors into thinking their money was being spent in Africa, a damning report declares today.

The Didier Drogba Foundation, which was backed by Princess Beatrice and David Beckham, also made claims in public that did not match its accounts, the Charity Commission found.

The scathing report comes after a Daily Mail investigation revealed how the charity had spent much of its money on lavish fundraising parties – despite claiming that the £1.7million it had raised in the UK would be spent building a hospital and educating poor children in West Africa’s Ivory Coast.

The Mail told how just £14,115 had gone to good causes, while more than 30 times that was spent on celebrity balls at London hotels.

Networking: Didier Drogba with Princess Beatrice at a charity dinner at the Dorchester

Networking: Didier Drogba with Princess Beatrice at a charity dinner at the Dorchester

After the Mail’s exposé, Drogba, an international star who played for Chelsea for years, threatened to sue for libel. But weeks later he was summoned to a meeting by Charity Commission officials to explain himself over the revelations. 

His foundation, which was run by Drogba and his agents, has been told it must now appoint new independent trustees to make sure it has proper scrutiny.

And the Charity Commission condemned the foundation for stating in accounts that it had spent £439,000 on charity work – when the money had actually funded the parties.

‘Funds had been raised at a number of events in the UK for a hospital project in the Ivory Coast,’ the report states. ‘But the charity had not yet spent any of the funds on charitable activity. Donors will have expected their donations to have been used for charitable purposes, not accumulated in a bank account.’

The Charity Commission also issued a warning to other celebrities with charities. David Holdsworth, the watchdog’s chief operating officer, said being a trustee ‘comes with significant responsibility’ and celebrities ‘should ensure that they are able to meet this’.

Drogba, 38, launched the charity in the UK in 2009. It held four fundraising balls in London hotels the Dorchester and Grosvenor House, where celebrities including Frank Lampard and Christine Bleakley drank champagne. They were told the charity had provided ‘financial support across health and education in Africa for nearly a decade’.

Drogba and Una Healy from The Saturdays, at the Foundation charity ball in 2010

Drogba and Una Healy from The Saturdays, at the Foundation charity ball in 2010

Its key projects were to build a hospital and up to five other clinics in Ivory Coast that would save 10,000 lives a year. But when the Mail scrutinised accounts, less than 1 per cent of the £1.7million raised in the UK over five years had been spent on good causes.

The charity claimed one ball had raised £300,000 – but accounts showed it was so expensive to put on that it actually lost £71,000.

After questions from the Mail, the foundation said it had kept money from donors in accounts so it could spend it in the future once the hospital was built. It said a civil war in Ivory Coast, which ended in 2011, had held up the project.

The charity said other work it had done had been funded by a separate body with the same name in Ivory Coast, paid for entirely by Drogba using his sponsorship earnings.

The footballer said this charity work had amounted to £2.94million. This included paying for treatment in Switzerland for an Ivorian child with leukaemia and building an Ivory Coast clinic. But the Charity Commission cannot check these claims as the Ivory Coast-based accounts are not open to scrutiny.

It criticised the foundation for not telling donors in the UK that their money was staying in the country, while Drogba’s own funds were used for charity in Africa.

Drogba, who earned around £200,000 a week at the peak of his career, did not comment on the report. But he strongly denied wrongdoing after the Mail’s probe in April, saying: ‘The Daily Mail, by such irresponsible journalism, are jeopardising the lives of many thousands of African children.

‘I want to help children from the Ivory Coast become leaders of the next generation, actors, politicians, scientists, doctors, teachers and sportspeople. By printing these lies, the Daily Mail is trying to stop Africa’s development.

‘Their information was factually incorrect and libellous. There is no fraud, no corruption, no mismanagement, no lies, no impropriety.

‘The £1.7million from UK fundraising will be used to make the main clinic fully operational.’

 African hospital that’s treated no patients

It was the Didier Drogba Foundation’s flagship project – a multi-million-pound hospital that would save 10,000 lives in West Africa every year.

But after years of generous donations, all that exists is a shell of a building that has not yet treated anyone.

The Daily Mail visited the site yesterday in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, to find the clinic shut, with no equipment installed inside.

The charity’s mobile health truck, which is meant to travel the country, was parked on the site and treating no patients.

It appeared very little progress had been made since the Mail last visited in January. Then there was also no sight of the promised X-ray room, ultra-modern laboratory, pharmacy and isolation rooms in the building, which is on former wasteland by the side of a busy main road.

Unfinished: The clinic in Ivory Coast as it is today 

Unfinished: The clinic in Ivory Coast as it is today 

The clinic had no furniture or equipment, apart from one desk. The floors were covered in dust, suggesting no one had entered for a while.

In February 2010, former Chelsea star Drogba announced his plans for a hospital in an advert for Pepsi. ‘I made a promise to myself that if I was able to live my dream as a footballer, that I would build my dream in Africa in my home town of Abidjan to build a hospital,’ he said.

Civil war held up the work, but in 2012 Drogba said plans were coming together again. Charity supporters were then told the hospital would open in summer 2015. It was claimed more than £1million from donations had gone towards buying the land and building the hospital.

But the Mail discovered that the land was given to the Didier Drogba Foundation for free by the local council. Drogba’s own funds paid for the building.

Drogba’s publicist’s website was later edited to remove the claim that the foundation bought the land. The initial plan was to provide maternity care but local officials now say this is ‘too complicated’. It is understood that when the hospital opens, it will be a day clinic with ten beds.

The health truck came from a charity called The Heart Fund, in collaboration with the Didier Drogba Foundation. 

Published at Sat, 03 Dec 2016 09:05:22 +0000