The Charity Commission has opened a statutory inquiry into the spiritual retreat the Gaunts House Charitable Foundation after concerns were raised about the charity’s financial management and overall governance.
The commission began investigating the charity, which is based in a mansion near Wimborne, Dorset, and advances religious, philosophical, psychological and sociological education, when it failed to file its accounts with the regulator for the financial year ending 30 September 2014.
It was late filing its accounts in each of the four previous years, according to its entry on the Charity Commission website.
The charity had filed accounts for 2013/14 with Companies House. When questioned by the Charity Commission, it said it planned to transfer its activities to the Richard Glyn Foundation from 1 October 2014, according to a statement from the commission.
The regulator said information provided to the commission showed that all the trustees of the charity had personal links with the Richard Glyn Foundation.
This raised serious concerns about the financial management and overall governance of Gaunts House because of the trustees’ inability to manage conflicts of interest – this potentially put the charity’s funds at risk, the commission said.
In addition to governance and finance arrangements, the inquiry will examine whether Gaunts House’s decision-making process is adequate and whether any misconduct and/or mismanagement has taken place.
Gaunts House was previously part of the Charity Commission’s double defaulters class inquiry in 2014, which investigated charities that failed to submit accounts for two or more years, but it was removed from the inquiry when it submitted the outstanding accounts.
The most recent accounts for the charity on the Companies House website show it had a total income of £440,690 in 2013/14, with spending of £437,593.
According to the Charity Commission, the charity has not updated its records and the trustees listed on the commission’s website are not its current trustees.
The Companies House website shows that there have been two attempts by the directors of Gaunts House to strike the charity off the register and dissolve the company. Both attempts were rejected by the registrar of companies.
The charity declined to comment.