Regulator opens inquiry into financial management of Hindu charity

The Charity Commission has concerns about the Bhaarat Welfare Trust's alleged inability to account for funds transferred to India over a five-year period

Bhaarat Welfare Trust
Bhaarat Welfare Trust

The Charity Commission has opened a statutory inquiry into a Hindu charity because of concerns about its financial management and legal action it is taking against another charity.

The Bhaarat Welfare Trust, which works to eradicate poverty in India, has been in contact with the Charity Commission since 2013. The commission said in a statement that it found serious issues at the charity during a visit in 2015.

Among these were a number of "serious regulatory concerns" about the charity’s financial management, including the ability of the trustees to account for funds transferred to India between 1 April 2010 and 31 March 2015.

The inquiry will also examine the basis on which donations for a specific project were held, unmanaged conflicts of interest and whether the charities claims for Gift Aid were valid.

The commission said it had issued the charity with an action plan in August 2015 to address these concerns, but the charity’s response, which was provided in November 2015, was "lacking".

Further meetings were held in August and November 2016, but the commission said the trustees failed to address its concerns.

It said that the commission had serious concerns about legal action taken by the charity in relation to a dispute with another Hindu charity called Shanti Dham.

According to the Shanti Dham website, the dispute relates to funds it says it gave to the Bhaarat Welfare Trust for safe-keeping.

According to the Charity Commission website, the Bhaarat Welfare Trust had an income of £1.2m and spent £1.3m in the year to 31 March 2016.

The inquiry will focus on whether the charity’s trustees have acted prudently in the financial management and administration of the charity and whether they have fulfilled their legal duties, the commission said.

It will also examine whether the legal action taken against Shanti Dham was lawful and justifiable, and as whether its reputation has been adequately protected by the trustees.

The Bhaarat Welfare Trust did not provide a comment before this story was published.

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