EXCLUSIVE: Lack of Financial Transparency Wrecks Credibility of K1 Britannia | Ralph Cantave

By Ralph Cantave


PHILIPSBURG – Years of discrepancies in financial decisions and obscurity in financial reporting has led to large clouds of doubt regarding good governance of the K1 Britannia Foundation. K1 Britannia, led by Priyanka Thirumur, was founded in 2014 as a maritime foundation according to their website. Thirumur has been the face of the foundation for several years until taking a back step recently. K1 later casted a wider net to include charitable projects, tackling social issues based on four pillars. Those pillars are: disaster relief, foster care, second chance and volunteerism, as stated on the foundation’s website. From the onset, the website doesn’t display the board of directors or leaders of K1.  However, according to the Chamber of Commerce & Industry registry, the directors are listed as: Grace Aurore Chakor-Djaltia (Secretary/Treasurer), Maria Arguedas Donner (President), Priyanka Thirumur (Vice President). K1 Britannia Foundation also has sister charities in the United States and United Kingdom which are, respectively, K1 America and K1 Britannia Trust.

The issue of transparency led to soured relationships between Thirumur and several former staffers and former volunteers, who left or were fired, due to inquiries on the status of the foundation’s finances. Any questions on the budget or details regarding financial information were shut down by the leadership.

“A Rudderless Ship”

Additional financial troubles have arisen in other areas of K1’s operations, for instance, in connection with the Spirit of Sint Maarten, which is a ship gifted or loaned to K1 Britannia Foundation for the purpose of creating income and in line with the maritime goals of the foundation. Workers of the ship were either not paid in full or paid very late which led to at least one having to file a complaint at the labor department. The ship is reportedly not in the best of conditions either with reported failures to cover the insurance costs, which grant funds were made available to cover. According to several sources, a vital lag in maintenance of the ship has put its structural viability in question. Despite the multiple tours and cruises conducted and funds generated, sources stated that Thirumur often claimed that she’ll get items donated to assist with maintenance and even requested workers to try to get donations as well.

Upgrades for the boat were also “cheap” and a major contention ensued when the little reinvestments into the ship were brought up, sources expressed. According to one statement, “there are structural concerns of the upper deck which is in need of major modification,” and which are necessary for the safety of the crew and passengers. According to additional sources, Thirumur was able to receive over $100,000 from the White and Yellow Cross of St. Maarten via two consecutive loans. The purported purpose of these granted funds was to support the purchase of the boat, based on the pitch; however no payment has ever been made though the loans were received K1 in August, 2019 sources confirmed.

In the Red with Donors

Financial matters have worsened with the questioning of funds K1 received from the Red Cross. A letter dated December 21, 2022, evidences that K1 owes the Netherlands Red Cross (Rode Kruis) €88,682 for the advance payment that K1 received as an implementing partner of the Food Assistance Programme which took place during 2020 and 2021. The letter stated, “the parties agreed in the Project Agreement that on completion of the project, K1 Britannia Foundation was to report the actual expenditure to the Netherlands Red Cross to settle the balance. The expenses of K1 Britannia Foundation while performing the Project Agreement turned out to be lower than the advance payment by the Netherlands Red Cross. This meant that the Netherlands Red Cross had an outstanding claim of €103,652,- towards K1 Britannia Foundation. K1 agreed to make payments of €10,000 for 10 weeks as of May 1, 2022, but the full amount was not reimbursed. Only €14,970 was repaid. The foundation has “no later than the 31st of January 2023” to transfer the balance, the letter stated.

The Red Cross grant is not the only one that remains unsubstantiated. While K1 provided valuable disaster relief support following Haiti’s 2021 earthquake, its stewardship of funding received as a result of that effort apparently was not so responsible.

A donor from the U.S. gave $100,000 at the time of the crisis, which K1 received but Thirumur delayed acknowledging. After multiple correspondence, a source stated that Thirumur said the funds were held up by K1 America. Requests made for compliance reports in regards to the funds were pushed back for more than a year and a half, until a faulty report was provided by Thirumur which the source claimed contained multiple errors and false statements. This included line items such as volunteer stipends for Covid-19 relief which were covered by other grant funds. Requests for receipts or other financial verification were not honored either, nor evidence of remaining funds.

Misleading statements in the report include mention of K1 Britannia’s food distribution in October and November of 2021, which ended in September. The report also includes expenditures for monthly trainings at $5000; however all of the activities planned for that time period were canceled particularly due to covid. The end of the budget stated, “The remaining amount of $40,443.35 from your donation will be used towards the Volunteer Trainings and Regional Deployment budget lines.” To date, though it has been requested by donors, nothing has been provided to prove there is any balance remaining.

Request for comment was made to a staffer of K1 and to Thirumur. Thirumur responded to the request and was only willing to speak in person; however, the possibility for such did not work out. Nonetheless, several questions were forwarded in writing, and were received but no comment was provided up to press time. Notably the events outlined were conducted above the reach of staff and volunteers. Only Thirumur and board members had control and decision making power regarding the foundation’s finances. This highlights the need for background checks and strong compliance measures. which may place a more difficult burden on the NGO sector that fulfills a great level of need and service to the community. Yet, without these controls, we risk serious violations not only of the public trust but also their well-being.

A follow up to this report is forthcoming.