Charity Commission opens statutory inquiry into Afghan Heroes over low levels of charitable expenditure

The veterans charity's latest accounts show that it received £548,440 in 2012 but spent only £15,153 on charitable activities

Afghan Heroes
Afghan Heroes

The Charity Commission has opened a statutory inquiry into the veterans charity Afghan Heroes amid concerns about its management and low levels of charitable expenditure.

The Somerset-based charity, which was registered with the commission in October 2009 and also uses the name True Heroes, was set up to help existing and former military personnel and their families.

During the financial year ending 31 December 2012, the charity received £548,440 in income and spent £516,288.

The charity’s latest accounts show that it spent £474,924 on generating funds in 2012 but only £15,153 on charitable activities. A further £26,211 was spent on governance costs.

The accounts show that in 2012 it employed eight full-time and 16 part-time members of staff at cost of £190,479. No employee earned more than £60,000 a year in 2012. The charity said it had tried to operate within the regulations at all times.

The commission said today that it had opened the inquiry on 22 November and would examine various regulatory concerns about the management and administration of the charity.

The commission said these included the significant risk to, and potential loss of, the charity's funds or other property; whether there were unmanaged conflicts of interest and unauthorised trustee benefits; whether there was mismanagement or misconduct on the part of the trustees; and whether the trustees had discharged their legal duties as charity trustees.

The charity was founded by Denise Harris, whose son Lee was killed by an improvised explosive device while serving in Afghanistan in July 2009. The charity mainly provides retreat breaks for serving and former military personnel and their children.

The commission said in a statement that it contacted the charity in September to ask about how much income was spent on charitable activities and various payments to companies connected to some of the trustees.

The regulator said it met trustees in October and the trustees had been unable to allay its concerns. It added that it has used its legal powers so that the trustees cannot make payments or dispose of property without its consent.

Harris said in a statement: "The charity was set up in 2009 when my son died while serving in Afghanistan and is run by a very small team, with most activities undertaken by myself and my husband.

"In the past year we have opened our first retreat for service personnel in Somerset, which has five bedrooms that are currently fully occupied. Full financial disclosure and access to our records have been made to the Charity Commission, which will report in due course.

"We have tried to act properly and within the regulations at all times. The inquiry will reveal whether anyone within the organisation has made any mistakes or mismanaged anything during an incredibly busy period for us. Our aim is for funds donated to benefit our troops.

"We are working with our advisers and the Charity Commission to resolve this issue and ensure that the best interests of recovering personnel are uppermost."

The commission plans to publish a report following the inquiry.

Andy Hillier

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