Questions are coming thick and fast from colleagues new to the story of the crisis in the BPS. Of course, they are new to it because, amongst other things, the Board of Trustees (BoT) and Senior Management Team (SMT) have been secretive about the facts. In the past year nothing has appeared in The Psychologist (relevant note: ‘the magazine of the British Psychological Society’) to give the slightest hint of any organisational problems. The CEO’s monthly homilies petered out with no editorial explanation. The President, who has recently resigned, made absolutely no mention of the troubled state of the organisation in her final ‘reports’.
This blog and an increasing number of reputable journalists are now bringing into public gaze the extent of organisational dysfunction in the Society. We have been trying our best to do what the BPS has palpably failed to do in relation to transparency. However, we are not private detectives or forensic accountants and nor do we have the investigatory powers of the Charity Commission. The latter is hovering nearby, but to date it has not fully disclosed its intentions in relation to its ongoing ‘engagement’ with the BoT. Given the very large file of complaints against the Society, we are left wondering what will be the tipping point for them to announce a Statutory Inquiry.
The 20 questions that require answers
Here we raise some questions crossing our minds and those put to us by perplexed colleagues. Ipso facto, we cannot answer them definitively but we can pose them in good faith on behalf of the membership.
- Why is the CEO still in post and being paid (from membership fees) but ‘not in his office’?
2. The Finance Director left the Society abruptly just before Christmas last – what were the circumstances surrounding that departure?
3. Was the expelled President Elect genuinely allowed to conduct his duties and was he given access to information appropriate for that task?
4. Was there a deliberate strategy on the part of the BoT and SMT to marginalise and disempower him, given his election pledges to rectify governance problems in the Society?
5. Was there a large fraud conducted in the Society that is still being investigated by the police?
6. What recruitment checks were conducted on the person who was alleged to have committed the fraud?
7. Who appointed this person?
8. Was the arson attack on the Leicester office during this period of turmoil (unreported to the membership) linked in any way to the alleged fraud investigation?
9. Did the BPS report the arson to the Charity Commission, as it is supposed to do under their guidance?
10. Why did the SMT refuse to give the BoT access to critical information, about the £6 million ‘change programme’?
11. What oversight was the BoT providing of the SMT and how was the effectiveness or otherwise of that oversight assessed?
12. Did the BoT consider that its culture of information restriction, which we have experienced directly ourselves, reasonable for a membership organisation professing a value of openness and transparency?
13. Why did the BoT make public the alleged grounds for the expulsion of the President Elect in advance of his appeal?
14. How can the President Elect have a fair appeal, when it appears to have been already prejudiced?
15. In light of answers to the above questions, has the President Elect been subjected to a ‘kangaroo court’ or ‘show trial’?
16. Was there a planned and wilful campaign to remove the President Elect by the BoT and SMT, as both a radical reformer and a whistle blower, as soon as he was elected?
17. Have journalists making legitimate enquiries, about all of the above matters, been threatened with legal action by the BPS?
18. Had the Vice-President, who resigned citing concerns about finance and governance, already ensured that those concerns were reported fully to the Charity Commission?
19. The ACAS definition of bullying is this: “Offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, involving an abuse or misuse of power through means intended to undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient.” Accordingly, does the action of broadcasting a video denouncing the President Elect constitute bullying by the BPS?
20. Finally, does the BoT now knowingly have a policy to ward off legitimate questions from members about governance matters, by alleging that the questioning, in of itself, constitutes bullying and harassment of BPS staff?
The final question is rhetorical; as victims of this tactic we can vouch that the answer is in the affirmative. Some of the questions on the list relate to criminal matters and others to aspects of due diligence and common decency. Ordinary members not only pose them now on reasonable grounds, but they deserve reasonable answers. The BoT have warded off the inconvenient truth surrounding the questions, using a mixture of silence, glib evasions, bureaucratic obfuscation and legal threats.
Is this how we expect a properly functioning learned organisation to operate, with its rhetorical adherence to the principle of openness and transparency? We ask readers to please send us any other questions that come to mind, which we might have missed from the above list. If we cannot answer them we can at least share them.
We will be posting some more detailed analyses of these questions over the course of the next couple of weeks.
The BPSWatch Editorial Collective