The Charity Commission has opened a statutory inquiry into poverty relief and Islamic faith advancement charity, Peacetrail – which names Cherie Blair’s sister Sara Jane Booth as a trustee – over concerns of poor governance and lack of financial controls at the charity, which has failed to supply annual accounts two years running and is unable to account for some £70,000 of spending
The charity - which also lists Sohale Ahmed of Stockport as a primary contact and Nadeem Shahzad Ahmed as the second trustee - has filed no annual accounts or returns for last two financial years ending 30 April 2014 and 30 April 2015.
Peacetrail describes its objectives as the advancement of the Islamic faith and the relief of poverty. The charity’s stated activities include supporting women and children who face financial hardship in the UK, Palestine, Pakistan with aims to also move into Africa.
A monitoring visit following the charity’s failure to file its statutory annual returns in either 2014 or 2015 identified a range of regulatory concerns including poor governance, risks to the charity’s property due to poor financial management and failures by the trustees to conduct proper due diligence and monitoring of its partners.
The visit also identified that the charity was unable to provide records to evidence expenditure of over £70,000.
As part of the Commission’s continuing regulatory engagement it identified further concerns about the charity’s use of a bank account of another, non-charitable, company and how these funds had been used and accounted for.
The Commission says it considers the concerns it has identified to be so serious that it has opened a statutory inquiry and directed the trustees to provide information including the charity’s activities, financial controls and an explanation as to the trustees continued failure to file the charity’s statutory annual returns.
The Commission has made an order to restrict transactions or payments that the charity may enter into without the Commission’s prior written approval.
The inquiry will also take steps as appropriate to safeguard and retrieve any funds which cannot be accounted for as applied for exclusively charitable purposes.
The Charity Commission says it will report on its findings once the investigation is completed.