Regulator launches probe into Devon charity’s oversight

The Charity Commission has opened a statutory inquiry into Humanity Torbay over serious concerns about the trustees’ oversight and management of the charity, including the handling of its accounts

The Torbay charity exists to support homeless people by, for example, running drop-in advice sessions or providing clothing and food.

However, the regulator has had to engage with the trustees on several occasions in the past year after some posts on the charity’s social media did not appear to comply with the Commission’s guidance on campaigning and political activity.

Despite the Commission issuing formal regulatory advice to the trustees about the need to ensure personal political views are kept separate from the charity, it has received further complaints about political content being posted online, including on the charity’s Facebook page.

The inquiry will examine the trustees’ compliance with regulatory advice and guidance, in particular in relation to use of the charity’s social media channels.

It will also probe the trustees’ management of the charity’s resources and financial affairs, compliance with their general legal duties and responsibilities, and whether the charity’s governance is fit for purpose.

The regulator has been looking into the charity’s finances after an independent examiner’s report in the accounts for the financial year ending 31 March 2019 highlighted concerns about accounting records.

Charities can undertake political activity and campaigning if it furthers or supports their purpose, but such activity must never be party political and a charity must stress its independence at all times.

The regulator is concerned that the trustees of Humanity Torbay do not have sufficient oversight or control of the charity’s social media content which should only be used to promote the charity’s objects and services.

The Commission may extend the scope of the scope of the inquiry if further regulatory concerns arise. The opening of an inquiry is not a finding of wrongdoing.

It is the Commission’s policy, after it has concluded an inquiry, to publish a report detailing what issues the inquiry looked at, what actions were undertaken as part of the inquiry and what the outcomes were.

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