All 72 of the charities that provide facilities and services for Royal Air Force bases are being investigated by the Charity Commission after two of them were defrauded by a contractor last month.
The commission said today it had opened a class inquiry on 26 May into all RAF mess charities after the theft of £72,000 from the Officers’ Mess and Sergeants’ Mess charities at RAF Honington in Suffolk.
A civilian contractor, Zowie Davis, 38, of Honington, pleaded guilty to the theft. In May he was sentenced to 18 months in prison.
The managing trustee of the two charities, which had a combined income of £225,000 for the year ending 31 May 2013, alerted the commission to the fraud, according to a statement from the regulator published today.
As well as a financial loss, the theft, which went on over a period of two years, affected the charities’ ability to keep accurate financial records, so both have failed to file accounts with the commission for the past three years.
The commission statement said: "All RAF messes have standardised financial control systems and we therefore want to satisfy ourselves that similar problems have not arisen, and do not arise, in other RAF mess charities."
In the UK there are 61 mess charities, which provide facilities and activities for the efficiency and wellbeing of service personnel. A further 11 in other countries also fall under the commission’s jurisdiction.
The statement said the commission would look into whether, and to what extent, other losses had occurred at other messes, whether adequate steps had been taken to recover any such losses, whether these serious incidents had been reported and whether the charities’ control procedures and practices were adequate.
An RAF spokesman said: "The RAF can confirm that after the sentencing of a civilian contractor to 18 months imprisonment for fraudulent activity while employed at RAF Honington, the Charity Commission has opened a statutory class inquiry into all RAF mess charities.
"The RAF takes these allegations very seriously and is cooperating fully with the Charity Commission. However, it would be inappropriate to comment further while the investigation is ongoing."