BNP’s delayed accounts reveal financial disaster zone
The BNP’s national and regional accounts were submitted to the Electoral Commission on 6 January, two days before the fines for their late submission would have doubled to £2,500. They reveal the full horror of the disaster area that is the BNP’s treasury department.
Even Griffin could not deny it. “The patchiness of our professionalisation programme inevitably produced internal stresses and gaps, including in due course the late submission of accounts,” he wrote in his introduction.
Clive Jefferson, the BNP’s fifth national treasurer since the start of 2009 – four are listed in the accounts, Jenny Noble being omitted – spoke more plainly. “From what I have been able to determine, the root of the problem was the inability of central treasury and accounting unit staff to implement new system adequate to cope with the massive increase in income and expenditure in 2009, compounded with the failure of professional accountants brought in to address the weaknesses they were expected to rectify. Both I and the party Chairman are frankly at a loss to understand why this was the case”.
It was not of course the moronic Jefferson’s fault. “I was appointed the Party’s Treasurer on 28th October 2010, which was subsequent to the records for 2009 being made available to the auditor. I can provide no information of any value regarding the accounts.”
The “professional accountants” were those supplied by Jim Dowson in Belfast, until late last year the much hyped fundraising and management consultant, until he fell out with Griffin and Patrick Harrington, Griffin’s old comrade from his National Front political soldier days, who now helps Griffin run the BNP.
The regional accounts, which bring together the income and expenditure of all the party’s local groups, similarly include an “I know nothing” claim by the new regional treasurer James Mole, who took over from David Hannam in mid September 2010. No doubt he is hoping not to be blamed for the dire consequences of the party’ inability to maintain bank reconciliations and account properly for its income and outgoings. A reconciliation of branches’ and groups’ balances on the very last page of the regional accounts shows that only £4,496 is available to meet the £93,579 the party supposedly owes its branches, which means that local units are only “entitled to 4.8p in the pound”.
No explanation is given for how this happened. But on 16 January, Eddy Butler, who last summer failed in his challenge to Nick Griffin for the party leadership, wrote: “I recommend that all local units open their own bank accounts … If you want to be able to hold on to your locally raised money it is vital, no it is essential, that you do this. …
“If you pay into the BNP bank account your hard earned money will be drawn out and wasted by Nick Griffin to pay for the court cases he has negligently embroiled the BNP in.”
That wastage is not yet apparent in the 2009 accounts, which show only £52,122 spent on “legal costs”. Far more can be expected in 2010, which includes the damages paid over the stupid Marmite copyright breach, and 2011. However, in his introduction to the national accounts Griffin gave full vent to his hate for the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which took legal action to force the party to end racial discrimination in its constitution. “Parallel to the officially sanctioned mob violence against us [a reference to the demonstrations against Griffin’s appearance on Question Time in October 2009], a campaign of ‘legal’ persecution was also launched,” wrote Griffin, an action “motivated not by genuine concerns about alleged ‘discrimination’ but by political malice”.
Griffin also reveals his continuing anger at having to admit ethnic minority members, who were “hitherto excluded primarily in order to provide at least one forum in which members of the indigenous community could discuss the problems inflicted upon them by the ruling elite’s policies of enforced multiculturalism”.
Griffin judges that 2009 was the party’s “best year ever” because of its European election success, but that victory held within it the seeds of the party’s subsequent decline. Admitting that the party’s activity had fallen off in the second half of 2009, Griffin ascribes it largely to the “energy that had to be expended at the top of the party getting to grips with the mechanics and responsibilities of representing British interests in the European Parliament”. In other words he accepts the criticism Butler has voiced recently that being an MEP means he cannot lead the party properly.
“Several new members of staff were brought in with the intention of avoiding this new focus leaving a management gap back at home, but by November it was becoming clear that this measure had failed and that clearing the problem up was likely to involve tough decisions and key personnel problems early in 2010,” Griffin continues. The results, in terms of legal expenses and settlements with former employees, will no doubt be revealed in the 2010 and 2011 accounts.
The audit report, by Silver & Co, who have audited the party’s accounts for many years, is surprisingly less devastating than the previous year, considering the admitted failures to keep adequate records, many of which are detailed in the accounts. Unlike in 2008, they consider that the financial statements “give a true and fair view of the state of the Party’s affairs as at 31st December 2009 … in so far as a full disclosure of the facts has been made in these accounts. But they cannot be classed as ‘true and fair’ under the usual definition of that term.”
Quite what that means is anyone’s guess, especially as the audit report goes on to state: “we have to accept that we cannot form an opinion as to the completeness of the financial statements, as we have had to base them on the information submitted, and controls were not in place to ensure the information on which these financial statements are based is complete”.
One suspects that the fudge of a report was the product of long and hard negotiations between Jefferson and the auditors to avoid a second wholly negative judgement and another investigation by the Electoral Commission of the party’s failure to comply with the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000.
As for the accounts themselves, they confirm that the party did indeed increase its income to nearly £2 million although only £1.3 million is shown donations, the result of the controversial appointment of Dowson’s Midas Consultancy. The figures may be way out, however, as “whilst details of donations made were entered into the membership data base that information was not reconcilied [sic] to the bankings”.
Membership income rose from £166,006 in 2008 to £626,180, although membership numbers only went up from 9,801 to 12,632. Noting the inconsistency, the accounts add: “The figure shown seems high and may include an element of donation income”.
Income from commercial activities is well down – from £130,000 to under £30,000. Partly that is due to the party apparently not being able to sell a single copy of its two publications, Voice of Freedom and Identity. Income from “merchandise” – books, mugs, t-shirts, etc under the Excalibur operation – is down because it was franchised out to Arthur Kemp, the party’s South African website editor, during the year.
Costs of commercial activities grew to £450,000, resulting in a huge loss. However a note admits that this is the result of the party not having systems in place to split the huge costs of printing, postage and delivery between commercial activities and election material. If that split could not be made, it must surely follow that the party’s return of expenditure for the European election, which showed £283,000, cannot be correct. The accounts themselves declare £271,000 spent on the European election.
The list of admitted accounting failures goes on. “A considerable amount of the ‘Trafalgar Club’ costs could be considered to be more to do with printing costs. The total cost covered is £23,900,” another note states, adding: “In the nominal ledger the ‘description shown’ is either ‘inv Held by D Hannam’ or simply ‘D Hannam’, indicating that the invoice is not available within the Party’s records.
Hannam was widely derided as incompetent at the time of the internal rebellion in winter 2007/08 when he was regional treasurer, but was promoted to national treasurer in February 2010 and in July boasted that everything was in place to ensure all financial statements were submitted on time. By October he was out of the job.
Simon Darby, the BNP’s former deputy chairman, also failed to account for expenditure, with “no documentation” available to cover a payment of £3,000 for “security costs” during the period while he was treasurer.
And in the first four months of 2009 a total of £37,450 was “entered in the Purchase Ledger as J A Walker payments” for which “No documentary evidence was put through the records to show what these payments covered”. John Walker has held various jobs in the party, including national treasurer, and is currently on the staff of the BNP’s MEPs, paid out of European Parliament funds. The unexplained payments to him occurred while Noble was treasurer, but the accounts for some reason avoid mentioning her name.
The accounts also show the party spent £168,000 on additions to its vehicles, equipment, fixtures and fittings, much of it the result of appeals during the year. Such an investment might be expected to stand the party in good stead for the future, except that “The Treasurer is in the process of reviewing the schedules which back-up the schedule above, which the auditor has provided, both in terms of what assets were in existence at 31 December 2009, and after the current re-organisation of the Party and the closing of certain offices”. In other words the BNP has no idea whether its assets still exist or ever existed, and many have been scrapped because the party has closed most of its offices, including the Belfast call centre, which was under the control of Dowson.
Writing off the doubtful assets in the 2009 accounts would of course have increased its loss of £57,202 for the year, a far cry from the profit the party has at various times claimed it achieved in the year. The loss increased the party’s net insolvency to £361,000, as a result of which it owed over £355,000 to suppliers and £37,000 to HM Revenue and Customs in PAYE tax and national insurance on staff wages and VAT.
Among those owed money was “Ad Lorries Ltd”, actually Adlorries.com Ltd. The accounts confirm what Searchlight revealed many months ago, namely that “a considerable amount of transactions were paid through and processed through” this company, which is owned by Dowson. The full amount the party was invoiced by Dowson’s company in 2009 was £741,290, which included £58,680 of management fees for running the Belfast call centre, part of the £162,000 a year Dowson was paid by the party. However even Dowson had to wait for his money. At 31 December 2009 the BNP owed his company £71,967, the accounts reveal.
The amount going through Adlorries represents a huge proportion of the party’s total expenditure of just over £2 million, justifying Searchlight’s accusation that Dowson virtually owned the BNP. Another accusation that the accounts prove correct is that the party massively inflated its payroll, providing jobs for those in Griffin’s favour. Expenditure on staff costs more than doubled to £660,000 in 2009, though this includes around £100,000 of consultancy fees paid to Dowson.
One person who always gets whatever he wants from the party is its chairman. During 2009 the party spent the huge sum of £33,519 on installing a security system for him. Andrew Brons, the party’s Yorkshire MEP, only merited £9,136, as did a person by the name of “Ms E Uttley”.
Jefferson states that a programme has been agreed with the auditor to ensure that the 2010 accounts are submitted on time and that “we are able to repair to a large extent any possible deficiencies in the operation of the Treasury department in 2010”. Deficiencies in the party’s finances will be harder to repair. The party ended 2010 unable to pay its printers, with staff waiting for their wages and mounting legal expenses from failed court actions and employment tribunal cases.
On 18 January 2011 Griffin was required to pay £45,000 into court as a result of having to withdraw a court case against four former employees. The total cost is expected to be £115,000. He failed to make the payment. And with donations drying up and demoralised members deserting the failing party, the BNP is unlikely to dig itself out of its deep financial hole.
The BNP’s Statement of Accounts can be found here