This is the Timeline of a Potential Fraud as Tort. A civil fraud typically involves the act of intentionally making a false representation of a material fact, with the intent to deceive, which is reasonably relied upon by another person to that person's detriment. A "false representation" can take many forms, including an intentional omission or concealment of some material fact done with the design of deceiving another party, and done with the intent that the other party rely on the deception.
I have gone through all the publicly available LI's financial information regarding the last FIVE years, and the latest Financial Information available at the LI Website. I have scrutinized all Audited Accounts. There is plenty to comment on, in them, they are full of misleading and plain false statements.
However, I have been missing certain pieces of information that may become evidence in court: Council Management Accounts and Executive Committee Meeting minutes, amongst others. I have been asking our President to release them to me, to no avail. I have been Censored, Banned, and Stonewalled by the LI: by the CEO, the Executive Committee, the Trustees and the Council Members, at large.
Nevertheless, I have been able to obtain some of these documents from people closely related to the Institute, who have been aware -for quite some time now- of the potentially illegal activities being carried out by the Executive Committee with the full approval of Our President and Trustees, and the willing and necessary collaboration of our very unreliable CEO, Alistair McCapra.
Some facts - There has not been a "huge" drop in Income at all in 2008.
Income has dropped by something in the region of £56,000 only IN RELATION TO 2007-08. You can see this for yourself in the graphic below: Income (In pink) grows steadily over the last few years and remains stable between 2007-08 and 2008-09, with a slight drop. It is expected to drop again, gently, in 2009-10. Income has grown in a sustained fashion from 2004-05 right up until 2008. The drop in income in 2008-09 is equivalent to 2,5% of our overall income for 2007-2008, our record year.
Click below for a detailed view of the evolution of Income and Expenditure and the resulting Deficits.
The information used to produce this graphic is mostly Public, even though I have used Confidential Documents to be able to understand what forecasts were being made at what time. The information related to 2008, 2009 and 2010 is mostly based on those forecasts, presumably put together for the knowledge of Council Members and the Executive Committee. Some of the 2009-10 details have been obtained from the Budgets available in the LI Website, but since the accounts are now presented in a different format, it has been quite difficult collating them.
Second Fact - Drop in Income is not to be blamed for our financial situation: Expenditure is.
There has been huge increase in Expenditure over several years, to the point where it pushes our accumulated deficit to over £500,000. The last time we had a surplus was in financial year 2005-06. We have been trading at a loss for the last three financial years, in spite of record income. After five years of continuous expansion, £8,000,000 in overall income and extraordinary opportunities, we find ourselves with a £220,000 deficit for 2007-2008 (over £350,000 for this last year) and £511,000 in liabilities for the same year.
Without any "drop in income".
It is not just me who says this. Alastair McCapra is entirely in agreement with my views:
I would like to make it clear that I do not trust McCapra: I consider him as unreliable, intellectually dishonest, with scant regards for facts, full of contempt for Members and generally concerned with furthering his own career above anything else. However, he is not stupid, so he makes sure he gets his facts right on relevant documents. He simply twists facts to make the rest of us look stupid. We do not get to handle confidential information and we do not lie on a regular basis either.
The fact is that the Landscape Institute went Over Budget in 2007-08 by £121,000.
A simple truth, revealed, not by the Instiute, as it should be, but by a Member that has spent the last three months escrutinizing the accounts. How is it possible to conceal what has happened from Members?
How can this lot dare to blame a "drop in advertising income" in the region of £20,000 in 2007-2008 and £98,000 the year 2008-09 for our woes, when it is clear that the overall fall in income between these two years does not reach £60,000?. Are we bankrupt because we failed to make £60,000 extra?
The answer is NO. What we have here is a deliberate attempt at pulling the wool over Members eyes. Simple facts stand out. One just needs to have the right facts at hand, but this has not happened. By selectively revealing certain bits of information and spinning them in a convenient way, the LI Council is trying to hide the fact that Council Management Budgets show that -as of 17th of March 2008- the LI Council was (or should have been) more than aware of an existing Deficit in the region of £133,000, as shown below:
The image depicts Council Budget for 2008-09 and it clearly shows that the Executive Committee and the Council were aware of a deficit. It is very likely that they were aware of the fact that those figures were going to increase -as they did- knowing the personalities involved with running our Institute. Scared by the liabilities they were incurring into, the potential misuse of money incurred into, and thinking more about their reputations than anything else, the Council decided to approve a Budget that increased EXPECTED Income by £400,000 over the previous year.
The Director General is clearly aware of the fact that she would be probably breaking the law and acting recklessly -and become therefore entirely liable for the consequences of what she was up to- because she introduces a caveat: Things budgeted for would only be realised "IF THERE WERE SUFFICENT FUNDS RAISED EXTERNALLY". The Budget is entirely condictional upon raising new funds "as planned". Rightly so: you cannot spend what you do not have. Right up until now, we have been told that "nobody had foreseeen changed financial circumstances". Well, Marion Bowman did, apparently.
I am not surprised, because the budget expected Expenditure to INCREASE by £425,000. Nearly half a million more to be spent on what exactly? Did no one at Council really find this strange and unusual? Of course they did. They were going over budget at the tune of £121,000 and they probably had a very good inkling of the consequences if they failed to account for these funds properly.
Not because of any "Drop in Income" but because they had been spending too much.
Strangely, I have received an email from Council Member Hamish Nielson asking me whether I have any evidence of wrongdoing. He was present at this meeting, along many others according to the Minutes, so he is likely to have more evidence of wrondoing than I do!
The same goes for Nigel Thorne who has publicly asked for evidence to be taken to the relevant authorities. I am working on that. They all must must have seen the figures, he must have understood them and he must have decided to stay quiet all this time too. Why? What were they afraid of? Where was our money going? Is there something they rather don't let us know?
To exemplify this exercise in collective cynicisym and plain dishonesty and disregard for their responsibilities, notice the following:
In spite of the fact that they are fully aware of their position since March 2008, the Honorary Treasurer, Colin Goodrum, does his best to mislead the membership as late as July 2008.
By the way, I am assuming that Minutes are actually a relatively fair record of what has been said at meetings. I am also assuming that the Trustees and the Executive Committe did not go as far as presenting fabricated information to Council first and the Auditors later. If the Council and our Auditors have been misled, this is an entirely different ball game and we need to call the Police in at once. So far, everything seems to indicate that the Whole Council is implicated in this conspiracy to carry out a potential fraud. We may need to call the Police in, anyway.
So, the problem is that the Hamish, Nigel and the rest of the LI Council approved absurd Income and Expenditure first, and that the Executtive Committee seems to have decided to go ahead with Expenditure, even before checking that the income was anywhere near secure by another £400,000 on top of what was earned the preceding year !!! As far as they are concerned, they seem to believe that this is fine. Well, it is not, particularly if the caveat found in the minutes is followed to the letter: do not spend until you have earned.
But let's see how would one go about setting a budget for a certain activity. The most popular way to do consider Past Performance information alongside market research to ground one'sr assumptions. A degree of common sense and caution is also required: it is better to end up with a £2,000 profit than a £2,000 loss. Always! Let's look at our Institutes's financial performance over the last few years in the graphic below:
Not really great, isn't it?. Out of SIX possible years to make a profit, the LI has succeeded just twice at staying within the Budget and within a profitable margin. Income has grown consistently over the last few years, but one can see that the curve tapers off in 2006-2007, when we had a £26,000 deficit. In fact, the LI manages to buck the trend in 2007-2008, our most successful year in terms of income to date. Still, the we incur into a massive deficit for that year, over £220,000. One would think of that as a warning shot.
Nevertheless, the Council expected Income to grow by nearly 25% in one single exercise, from march 2008 to March 2009. Having topped historical Income with a record £2,000,000 for 2007-08, they expect to obtain a supplementary HALF A MILLION sterling out of somewhere. To put it bluntly, it not only appears rather irrational but stupid and fairly badly intentioned. There is nothing innocent about this, please notice the detail in this graphic below:
I presume that the totally implausible Expected Increase in Income for 2008-09 is apparent. Unsurprisingly, there has been a shortfall. It would be impossible for any going concern to increase Income in such a way without massive investment on a new product, service or client, as it happened at the LI between 2004 and 2006. Moreover, the trend seemed to indicate that sustained growth was coming to an end and Income growth was tapering off after a few years of extraordinary and consistent expansion. The Institute is not an exception to the rules of Economics.
You can see for yourself the evolution of Actual and Expected Income and Expenditure for several years, according tot he information contained in Management Accounts and Financial Statements:
I hope that you can see that the shortfall between Expected and Actual Income is less relevant than the massive increase in Expenditure in 2007-08 and 2008-09. Income remains stable during this period, but Expenditure does not. Moreover, Expenditure gets out of control and OVER BUDGET in 2007-08 as shown here in detail.
In March 2008, the Executive Committee was well aware of a £133,000 Deficit and very possibly of the fact that they were overbudget by 121,000 in undue expenditure, if no more.
It is apparent that they decided to keep it quiet first and push ahead with massive expansion plans that seem designed to bring our Institute to near bankruptcy second. This was no mistake. They knew what was at stake: they would have had to explain to Members what has been going on first and, most likely, resign later. Assuming that they have any decency left in them, which I doubt.
To avoid their Financial Liabilites and Managerial Responsibilities, they MANAGE Expectations to provoke a situation of Financial Instability since March 2008. The Council Budgets have been designed with unrealistic Income expectations in quite a deliberate fashion. They also relieve the situation by restructuring the LI expenditure levels. It would seem that they got "caught" by the "Economic Downturn" but very much on porpouse: it helped them to confound a largely innumerate amount of people.
By 1st of October 2008 -well before the 2008 AGM- the LI fully Expected a "drop" in Income for Advertising, Events, and Members Subscriptions as well as other items, bringing the shortfall within the region of £296,000 for 2008 up until that date.
However, simultaneously, the LI also Expected a Reduction in Expenditure in the region of £230,000 for 2008. That is to say that the LI was undergoing severe financial restructuring well before the 2008 AGM. Please notice this document from the Restructuring Plan
The Expected Deficit is forecast is £45,000 but notice that, at this stage, the LI Documents still forecast an increase in Income and Expenditure with respect to 2007-08. It is difficult to understand what is happening at this stage, other than the fact that Alastair McCapra was already aware of an overall deficit for 2007-08 and 2008-09 which totalled, at that point at least, £180,000. These figures would result of the known £133,000 deficit incurred during 2007-08 plus the Expected £45,000 for 2008-09.
Later in the month, after the AGM, the Audited accounts will be signed with the addition of the mysterious £87,000 "misspent" sometime in 2007-08 or 2008-09, no details are provided in any shape or form for this expenditure, and it seems that we are allowed neither to enquiry nor to know about them. We are only told that they have been "misspent". I consider them "MISSING".
I feel that it would have been sensible to inform the AGM of the potentially missing money, the changing economic circumstances and the well known Financial Situation. After all, expenditure over budget at the tune of £121,000 and an overall deficit of £175,000 seems large enough to deserve relevance in any financial documents. The Executive Committee, the CEO and by extension the Council, decide not to. They simply decide to sit on it and wait until the membership has no chance to react and stop the ones at fault from perpetuating themselves in the positions of authority that they have abused for so long, by means of a Constitutional Change taylored to suit their needs.
The first news that some Members hear about the financial situation come out in November 2008, eight full months after the Executive Committe and possibly the Council knew about it. It is apparent to me that this is nothing but the beginning of a deliberate campaign of misinformation and mendacity, a deliberate ruse, designed to keep the Membership in the dark about our actual financial position. That is my view on the available facts. In legal terms is called Fraud.
The events leading up to the EGM in February 2009 follows the same pattern of secrecy and deceit: heavily biased statements from the LI are released to some Members in November 2008, misleading figures are bandied about, a complete news blackout is imposed, the facts are whitewashed and leading figures of our profession are lied to and treated like idiots. Our Journal does not carry any news anymore. Mendacity becomes the norm.
More worringly, our Archives and Library are threatened with destruction, for no reason. The resources for their upkeep have been wasted on "Events": weekend "benders" disguised as competitions for a selected few at the tune of £10,000, it seems. Trips abroad at the tune of £6,000, and possibly more. The fraudsters have been hard at work, polishing their tainted reputations and buying goodwill where there should be nothing but contempt.
The Financial Statement issued in February 2009 is a perfect example of a heavily biased and mendacious document. The phrasing consistently overstate or understate the case without referring to any factual evidence or back-up documentation. The figures are heavily distorted and the weight of the "Shortfall" falls on "Advertising", when this is not the case.
The turn of the phrase refers, almost exclusively, to Budgeted Expenditure and Income. For instance, the proposed cuts in Budgeted Expenditure are in the region of £750,000. But "Budgeted" means "Expected" or "Chosen Figure". A Budget is a reference document for Financial Planning and Control, an assumption upon which we base our operational Expenditure and Income Control. What truly matters is the Actual Money being spent or earned.
There is very little point in budgeting for the next holiday as if we were millionaires when we are on £25,000 a year. Of course, you can then tell your friends in the Pub that you had to slash your Holiday Budget by £750,000, due to a drop in income arising when you were made redundant. It is possible to do so, but it is neither sensible nor honest. How on Earth the Membership has bought this trash is beyond me.
The fact is that figures presented at the last EGM were simply a fabrication designed to mislead the Membership. McCapra used the alleged £900,000 budget cuts to push the Membership in the direction that the Executive Committee wanted: away from expenditure and expenses.
I have highlighted a few false and misleading statements as presented to the Membership in March 2009 in the image below. It made me suspicious from the minute I got it in the post: it has been worded as if we Members were half-wits ready to swallow anything that comes our way. They forgot that I am professional Landscape Architect: I do not buy nonsense.
The true details of the 2007-08 deficit in relation to that years Budget are:
- Minus £65,000 for Gift Aid,
- Minus £40,000 for Events,
- Minus £20,000 for Advertising,
- Minus £15,000 for sale of Publications.
- A £26,000 increase in Expenditure.
Please notice that Actual Income GREW in 2007-2008 by as much as £145,000 over 2006-07. There was a shortfall in relation to expectations only. The Landscape Institute expected to Increase its Income in 2007-08 by over £200,000, or 15% over its previous Budget, in one single year. Growing a healthy 10% a year is obviously not enough for us.
The details of the 2008-09 Deficit Forecast , as known to the LI on 1st of October 2008 are:
- Minus £33,000 for Members subscriptions.
- Minus £72,000 for Events.
- Minus £63,000 for "I want to be a LA".
- Minus £98,000 for Advertising,
- Minus £9,000 for sale of Publications.
Notice that there was indeed a drop in income from various streams in 2008-09 with respect to Expectations only. It is unclear to me why the Council expected Advertising revenue to Increase by £120,000 (or 28% on 2006-07, our finest year for income) after suffering a drop in income of £20,000 during 2007-08, in a general atmosphere of impending financial downturn.
It would appear that overall, the drop in Advertising in 2008-09 revenue amounts to 30% of the actual drop in all income for 2008-09. The other Items account for nearly £177,000. Overall, the actual Expected Deficit for 2008-2009, as known to Alastair McCapra and the Executive Committee in October 2008 is in the region of £45,000 plus £133,000 for 2007-08.
The truth is that cuts in Actual Expenditure for 2008-09 are in the Region of £115,000 only. In fact, Actual Expenditure will have GROWN between 2007-08 and 2008-09 by £150,000. Of course, Expected (Budgeted) Expenditure will FALL by something in the region of £110,000: We cannot spend money that we do not have now or ever. In theory.
Again, if we look at Budgets for 2009-10, we can see that the LI expects income to fall to 2006-07 levels. The expected drop in Income respect to 2008-09 is in the region of £116,000. Not a particularly severe fall, altogether. Even if we add 2008-09 plus 2009-10 falls in income, we would come up with a £175,000 accumulated fall in Income for two years. This would equal a 10% of our Expected Total Income for 2009-2010.
We are talking about a relatively serious reduction in Expected Income over two years but it is still less than the £220,000 deficit incurred in 2007-08: a year with record Income.
The surprising fact is, however, what happens in expenditure. Until now, we have been told of a problems with Income. As such, we should expect massive reductions on this front. Yet, we can only identify a 2,5% reduction in Income of for 2008-09 and a expected 7,5% drop in Income for 2009-2010.
Contrast this with the Net Expected drop in Expenditure for 2009-10: £500,000 in relation to 2008-09. So, the problem is not that we do not have Income after all. We are even expected to have a £47,000 surplus in 2009-10. The problem is that we have been spending too much for too long.
One more important point to consider is the net effect that all these Budget cuts will have on our financial position. Are we really going to save £750,000, as it would appear?
The truth is that as of 1st of March 2009, the LI expects a reduction in Budget in the region of £610,000. We are talking here about "Man in the Pub" money. This is the money we wanted to spend but that we never had. These are just figures pulled out of thin air, not money that we ever had.
If we compare Actual Known Positions, between 2008-09 and 2009-2010, the Actual "cuts" to our Expected Income and Expenditure total £380,000 or thereabouts. That is the actual amount of money that we will be neither spending nor earning in relation to previous Budgets. However, if we discount the Expected Surplus, we can see that the overall "Cuts" amount to little more than £330,000 in our balance between Income and Expenditure. A nifty figure that practically equals our 2007-08 Deficit plus most of our deficits for 2008-09 and 2009-10 added together.
We will still have considerable liabilities and a huge, accumulated deficit, that can be attributed safely to whatever has been happening in the preceding five financial years, and specially the last two, under the Presidency of Nigel Thorne and now, under the innefectual Neil Williamson.
We need to bear in mind the precedent: in 2004-05, with Jo Watkins as Honorary Treasurer, we had a deficit in the region of £60,000 allegedly due “Unexpected legal costs and salary outgoings, the cost of the move from Barnard Mews, together with the start up costs for Landscape". The truth is that the Item " Staff costs and transactions with Council members – Other Staff Costs!, grew to £76,823 in one year, by more than £50,000. We learnt nothing from that but Watkins did learn what he could get away with.
We can also see in McCapras misleading reply to my queries to President Williamson, that Trustees expenses are hidden in "Other Staff Costs" for 2007-08, at the tune of £10,000 for one single item apparently billed by Jo Watkins as "UCAS Officer Expenses".
We have been diverted by side issues such as the Library and Archives, which have never had any significant financial impact on our position, as we can see on this document below of 31st of October. The expected savings to be attained are minimal and disposing of them on these grounds amount to institutional vandalism.
Dismissing our Archivist with lies and insulting her in public should have been enough to make our blood boil. Instead, we have allowed this dishonest lot to do the same with several people. We are all liable and open to be challenged in the courts. We are harassing and sacking employees for a few to keep their expenses allowances untouched. We deserve to bear costs and shame.
Where has our money gone? Aside from the bizarre acquisitions that our Trustees have agreed to, such unnecessary furniture, and the ballooning cost of Staff related costs and Salaries, excessive Expenditure in Communications and IT (what actual benefit do we get from all this?) the main potential undue expenditure has taken place in and around items related to Events, where all kind of strange going ons can be filed away in the dark.
These Events have been enjoyed by many within our Institute for years, and some of them have been notoriously lavish. I very much doubt that they have been good value for money for most of us, Members.
Let's look at what Presidents and Vice-Presidents report when they bother to turn up to Council Meetings:
This is from October 2007. Notice Jo Watkins absence. Notice Kathryn Moore's nice trip to Kuala Lumpur. That year we were several hundred thousand over spending budget, but who cares when you have a crisis to blame it on?
Now look at the latest Report on Presidents and Vice- Presidents shenanigans:
This is from October 2008. Notice Nigel Thorne's nice trip to Nanjing, China, at a nice cost of £6,000. This, when he was fully aware of a deficit of £220,000. When was he in Dubai last? No cost cutting exercises for him. Also, notice Jo Watkins absence. Again, our President Elect does not feel that he needs to report anything to Council. Just pass the expenses cheque on and that is about it. Poor Williamson has no fun, it seems.
Available evidence points to the fact that a major drain on our resources has been the lack of Financial Controls in place which as led to a potential abuse of Trustees and Directors Expenses Allowances. This has been concealed by placing Trustees Personal Expenses Items under various headings, such as "Other Staff Costs", and generally making this kind of expenditure untraceable by changing the headings under which it is recorded as well as the format of the Accounts. Another favourite has been to conceal huge amounts of potentially misspent money in "Events and "Other Events".
The mysterious £87,000 "misspent" cannot be safely attributed to one financial year or another and I have reasons to believe that they correspond to potentially undue expenditure incurred into by Trustees and Directors that was neither properly authorised nor recorded. Some of these expenses may have been required for the normal operation of our Institute, but it is very likely that Expenses might have been used for the personal profit of Trustees and Directors or other parties, in the light of events. At the tune of £121,000 in one single year.
I see no other explanation for their behaviour otherwise and we deserve a pretty good one quickly.
It is time for Members to react. Those in positions of responsibility and authority have abused our trust. They must be removed form their posts, either voluntarily or by legal means. They have acted in bad faith, with a view to perpetuate themselves in their positions and manoeuvre themselves in an unassailable constitutional fortress. They have concealed information, whitewashed the facts and blacked out the news. They have vandalised out Institute and our traditions, our cultural and professional legacy. They have murdered free speech, and not surprisingly, our Journal has been one of the earliest casualties.
Following the removal of our untrustworthy Trustees and the Council, a wide ranging enquiry should be launched to ascertain the pattern of expenditure Trustees have incurred into and decide whether we are facing a case of pure mismanagement that has developed into a fraud out of desperation or whether we have here a case of systematic plundering and corporate corruption, designed to subsidize the expensive lifestyles of a few.
Those at fault, if any, should be prosecuted and forced to repay the missing funds. At the very least, they should be expelled from the Institute and stripped of their Membership priviledges.
Alastair McCapra, Neil Williamson, Jo Watkins, Colin Goodrum, Nigel Thorne, Kathryn Moore, Paul Lincoln, Sue Beard et al appear to have been misleading us all with a very clear intention to damage our interests and further their careers and personal wealth at our expense. In attempting to conceal the facts from Members they are entering into a conspiracy to commit a fraud and entering in a potentially criminal activity, akin to corporate corruption.
They can challenge my assertions in court, if they wish to do so. I am more than ready to come forward and be judged on my words and evidence. Failing to have the current people in charge of the LI removed will bring our profession into disrepute, with a good reason: we would all be partaking of a fraud in tort.
I have put together their little history of deception and lies in numerical from in this document. You can download it from the side bar too. The numbers speak for themselves but you may prefer to download the Financial Timeline, for easier comprehension. I am still awaiting responses to my various questions and views. I write, email and fax the LI regularly, asking them to acknowledge my communications. Nothing much so far.
I am more than ready to change my views if they back their statements with facts and evidence. I have been asking them to do so for months. Their latest response: to block my email addresses in their system, so I cannot longer email them with my troublesome stuff.
As far as I am concerned, the reasons why our Institute finds itself in a dire financial situations are that Directors and Trustees have mismanaged our Institute systematically over a number of years, possibly going back as far as 2004 if no more. Their priority has been peripheral stuff, as well as absurd moves such as the redevelopment of Barnard Mews into flats, as you can see in the 2008 Minutes. There is plenty of money for that, as well as travelling, going to various do's and having three course lunches at our expense.
I believe that they have entered into a conspiracy to commit a fraud, by misleading the membership by actively preventing us from ascertaining the true facts behind this shabby affair, with a view to extend their privileged access to our dues and to strip us of our assets and heritage for no good reason, in a move that amounts to corruption across the Executive Committee and the Council.
In any event, the whole board of trustees and Council need to apologise and resign as a matter of urgency. They have had ample notice to do so with dignity. I have written to President Williamson repeatedly. He is aware of everything, and with him, McCapra, Watkins and McAllister, who has has been the only one to receive confidential evidence from me and he has decided to stay within the realm of the potential fraudsters. So much for a breadth of fresh air.
If they do not wish to do so, they deserve to be prosecuted jointly and severally. Some of them are sure to deserve prison sentences for their potentially criminal behaviour with regards to all of us, Members of the Landscape Institute.
Their disloyal attitude should have been a clear warning to all of us. This is the last chance to save our dignity as a Profession. If we fail to act, there is nothing but a void of shame and dishonour for all of us. We have, collectively, failed to exercise our duty of care and professional responsibility within our own Institute.
We have shown a vast gap in our understanding of financial, managerial, legal as well as ethical matters, that reflects - profoundly- on our professional ability and capabilities to effectively serve the public and promote Landscape.
Missing the point, living in deliberate ignorance of basic facts, worrying about personal relationships and reputations are not viable options. We are showing that we are not fit for porpouse. It is time to reform our Institute, our Education and our Profession.
This is what I believe. This is what I have have evidence of, and more.