A trustee of a defunct poverty relief charity that operated in Syria has been disqualified for four years by the Charity Commission after taking £2,000 in charitable funds without being able to show how it was used.
The commission said today that Tabbasam Mustafa, a trustee at Deen Team, had failed to follow regulatory advice issued by the regulator, was unable to produce evidence as to why she received charity funds and did not cooperate with a statutory inquiry into her charity.
The charity was proactively identified for a visit by the Charity Commission when it registered in 2014 because of its work in overseas aid in Syria, which is deemed a high-risk country, the regulator said.
Two trustees, including Mustafa, had also been on the board of another charity that was the subject of a statutory inquiry, the commission said, although it did not name the other charity.
This led to a monitoring visit by the Charity Commission in 2014, which in turn led to the identification of regulatory concerns about Deen Team’s financial controls, due diligence and governance.
The commission issued guidance to the charity in December 2014, which led to the resignation of two of the charity’s trustees, leaving Mustafa as the only active trustee at the charity who had met the commission in July 2014 plus two trustees who were appointed later in 2014.
Further contact from the commission in late 2015 and early 2016 led to concerns about the risk to the charity’s property as a result of inadequate financial controls and governance, about a failure to hold trustee meetings and that the charity had not had a bank account since February 2015.
The inquiry found that two of the remaining trustees had attempted to resign – only one was eventually allowed to do so, with the other remaining to ensure meetings were quorate.
These two trustees also provided evidence that the charity was not holding two annual ordinary meetings, which the commission found was misconduct/mismanagement on the part of the three trustees.
In its investigation into the charity’s financial controls, it found that several payments had been made to a company from the charity’s bank account. The trustees were unable to provide evidence about this money, but the company confirmed it was for charitable purposes.
The commission then identified two separate £1,000 cheques that were paid to Mustafa in May and December 2014.
Mustafa told the commission that these were to cover costs for fundraising merchandise, Facebook advertising and other administrative spending, but was unable to provide evidence of their end use.
Another trustee, who left in December 2014, had keys to the charity’s premises, which the commission found they were using for their own benefit.
Mustafa was unable to recall leasing from the property’s landlord, which was another charity, when providing information to the commission about the premises.
The commission found that Mustafa’s failure to be aware of the lease and to protect the asset was misconduct and/or mismanagement.
Mustafa also failed to provide documents and answers to questions and requests issued by the Charity Commission, which it deemed to be misconduct/mismanagement.
The commission informed Mustafa that she was being disqualified from being a trustee for four years.
The charity was removed from the charity register on 10 October 2017.
Third Sector was unable to contact Mustafa for comment.