Charity given official warning over lack of financial controls

The Charity Commission has issued an official warning to the trustees of a Midlands-based charity for repeated failure to engage with the regulator in response to serious concerns, including lack of any control over funds being raised

Helping Our Future, based in Wolverhampton, has charitable objects to support children in the UK, Pakistan and India.

The Commission opened a regulatory compliance case in December 2016 following concerns about the charity’s use of clothing recycling banks.

Complaints included that companies connected to the charity had removed other charities’ recycling banks and had failed to obtain the relevant permission from landowners before situating their own banks. The charity took no action in response.

When asked about these companies by the Commission, the trustees could not explain how they worked, how the amount due to the charity was calculated or what clothing had been collected.

The trustees also did not demonstrate any oversight or control over funds being raised in the charity’s name through its clothing recycling banks.

In addition, the Commission said contact with the trustees was difficult: the correspondent changed frequently, it was unclear who was the CEO and meetings were cancelled or postponed at short notice.

When the Commission did meet with the trustees, they had little knowledge of their roles and responsibilities, or why certain activities had been undertaken by the charity.

The trustees were unaware of their financial responsibilities, filed late accounts for 2018 and 2019, and their bank account was closed with no new account opened.

The trustees attempted to amend their charitable objects without obtaining the relevant permission from the regulator, misrepresented these charity objects in places including on the charity’s website and carried out activities that did not further those objects.

As a result of successive failures by the trustees to address these concerns and engage with the Commission, the regulator has taken the significant step of exercising its power to issue an official warning, directing them to take specific actions.

Amongst other actions, this requires the trustees to ensure that any literature, website, or digital platform accurately reflects the objects of the charity within one month of the date of the order.

They must also ensure that they exercise sufficient oversight of the charity’s activities and finances, including by opening a bank account, observing the bank mandate, and implementing and complying with the charity’s financial controls policy within six weeks of the date of the order.

In addition, all trustee decision making must be fully documented in meeting minutes.

Helen Earner, director of regulatory services at the Charity Commission, said: ‘Good governance is not a bureaucratic detail – it underpins the delivery of a charity’s purposes to the high standards expected by the public.

‘The trustees of Helping Our Future did not demonstrate good governance or act even after significant concerns were raised with them.

‘They have also been obstructive in response to our approaches. We expect the trustees to now act quickly to comply with the required actions and address our continued concerns.’

Failure to comply with the actions set out in the official warning will lead to the regulator taking further action against the trustees.

The Commission’s regulatory case into Helping Our Future is ongoing.

Further reading:

The official warning

Pat Sweet |Reporter, Accountancy Daily [2010-2021]

Pat Sweet was the former online reporter at Accountancy Daily and contributor to the monthly Accountancy magazine, pub...

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