December 18, 2013; Bath Daily Chronicle (Western Daily Press)

It’s all too typical in the U.S. that veterans’ charities are inflicted with unbelievably high fundraising and telemarketing costs and very small proportions of donors’ funds going into program. Turns out it happens in the U.K. as well.

The Charity Commission has just launched an investigation into Afghan Heroes, a charity founded by a mom whose son was killed by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan in 2009. Liam Fox, a member of Parliament, resigned as the “patron” of the charity after the announcement of the investigation.

What prompted the investigation seems to be the kind of financial breakdown we have seen in plenty of U.S. veterans’ charities. According to the Western Daily Press report:

During the financial year ending December 31, 2012, the charity received £548,440 in income and spent £516,288. It spent £474,924 on generating funds in 2012 but only £15,153 on charitable activities. A further £26,211 was spent on governance costs. In 2012, it employed eight full-time and 16 part-time members of staff at a cost of £190,479.

MP Fox explained his decision to step aside from the charity: “It is important to stress at this stage that this is an investigation and no conclusions about the running of the charity have been reached…. However, I was not made aware by either the management or the trustees of the charity that any investigation was due to take place. With this breakdown in trust it is impossible for me to continue to act as patron and it is with sadness that I can no longer do so.”

Give Fox credit for doing what few American politicians do when their charities are under investigation. Also, give the Charity Commission credit for taking the initiative to investigate a situation that, in the U.S., would be the subject of an occasional press story, but little or no governmental action.—Rick Cohen