Regulator’s inquiry sees charity improve financial controls

A Charity Commission inquiry into One Nation, a Yorkshire-based charity which aims to provide relief of hardship internationally, has result in improvements to its financial governance and a reduction in unmanaged risks, the regulator has reported

The inquiry was opened in November 2016 and concluded that there had been misconduct and/or mismanagement in the administration of the charity. Failings by the trustees meant that volunteers with declared convictions and motoring offences were allowed to participate in aid convoys, despite the Commission previously alerting charities to the risks of such convoys. The trustees also failed to account for all of the charity’s income, including the contents of containers sent to Syria.

In addition, the inquiry found that there had been unauthorised trustee benefit of around £13,000 due to the employment of a former trustee in a senior management position. There was no evidence that this conflict of interest was properly managed, and the trustees failed to obtain necessary consent from the regulator.

Furthermore, despite claiming that it operates a ‘100% donation policy’, the trustees had failed to account correctly for restricted funds, and provided incorrect information to the Commission in the charity’s accounts for the financial years ending 30 September 2014, 2015 and 2016, which did not comply with charity law.

The Commission had concerns about the charity before it was registered, and provided regulatory advice and guidance on several occasions to its trustees. The trustees failed to act on this advice and the investigation found numerous breaches of trustee duty - including a lack of review and scrutiny of individuals involved with the charity and failure to act responsibly or diligently.

The regulator has provided the charity with an action plan and now says the trustees have evidenced some improvements in the way the charity is run, including its recruitment and assessment of volunteers, due diligence on partners, and accounting for aid donated to the charity. The charity no longer organises or participates in aid convoys.

Michelle Russell, director of investigations, monitoring and enforcement at the Charity Commission, said: ‘At the time of opening our inquiry the governance and administration of this charity was inadequate. By failing to carry out appropriate checks or act responsibly, these trustees exposed their charity to serious undue risk, undermining the purposes for which this charity was established and falling short of what the public expect of a charity.

‘These risks could have been easily avoided through better management and administration of the charity.

‘Our intervention has shone a light on past failings and led to improvements in the charity’s governance. We expect the trustees to continue to strengthen the charity’s operations so that the charity can maximise its impact on people’s lives.’

The regulator has issued further regulatory advice to address some remaining deficiencies in relation to the charity’s accounts and policy documents.

Charity Inquiry: One Nation is here.

Report by Pat Sweet

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