Pastor of religious charity must pay back £50k

The charity watchdog has ruled that an absence of trustees at the Redeemed Christian Church of God New Life Assembly left it without a governing body, leading to misappropriation of funds

The charity, which operated in Barnet in north London, was set up to advance the Christian faith.

A Charity Commission inquiry found that £50,000 of charitable funds had been paid to a pastor of the charity rather than being used for furthering the charitable aims of the organisation. This had been arranged by the administrator, despite the administrator not being registered as a trustee.

A lack of trustee oversight created the circumstances where charitable funds could be misapplied, the Charity Commission found, and the charity has now been struck off the register of charities.

The Commission first started to investigate the charity in 2014 after it failed to file its accounts and was subject to a ‘double defaulter’ inquiry, which examines charities in default.

The overdue accounts were eventually filed, but the charity went into default again for its 2013 accounts, so the Commission opened an inquiry to examine the organisation further.

The inquiry found there were no actual trustees running the charity. Instead the charity’s administrator provided information to the inquiry.

Although trustees were listed they denied involvement. According to the Commission report, Trustee A did not respond to any correspondence and the Commission found that he did not act in the administration of the charity and was subsequently removed as a trustee by the Commission. Trustee B claimed to have resigned in 2010 and that he had not been involved with the charity.

A third person, Trustee C, informed the inquiry that he had moved to Nigeria and resigned many years prior to the opening of the inquiry, possibly in 2011.

There was no evidence of the resignation nor was there any evidence of his involvement with the charity.

Inadequate financial controls had also failed to ensure the funds paid to the pastor were spent on the purposes of the charity and the pastor could only show that £35,000 had been spent on the charity’s objects.

A repayment agreement has since been drawn up between the pastor and the administrator to cover the amount owed in full in payments of £250 per month.

Amy Spiller, head of investigations team, at the Charity Commission said: ‘The public rightly expects trustees to carefully steward funds in the best interests of their charity and its beneficiaries. Charity can and should lead the way in taking public expectations seriously.

‘Our inquiry found this charity existed without adequate leadership or financial controls.

‘As a result, the funds were left at risk of misuse and money intended for charitable purposes was spent outside of this - we’re therefore pleased that a repayment schedule has been agreed for the money not spent on charitable purposes to be paid back.’

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