Brian Mercer Charitable Trust trustee fined £3,000 over conflict of interest

Alan Rowntree, a consultant at the accountants Beever and Struthers (office pictured), was ordered to pay by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales

Beever and Struthers
Beever and Struthers

An accountant has been fined £3,000 with nearly £3,000 more in costs after he received payments for acting as a trustee of a grant-making charity for which he also provided professional services.

Alan Rowntree, a consultant at the chartered accountancy firm Beever and Struthers, based in Blackburn, Lancashire, and trustee of the Brian Mercer Charitable Trust, was fined £3,000 and ordered to pay costs of £2,809 by an investigations panel of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales.

A consent order published by the ICAEW says that Rowntree acted as a trustee for the BMCT, but charged the trust £35,342 between 2002 and 2009 for the work, in breach of the charity’s trust deeds.

It says Rowntree failed to follow Charity Commission advice in "relation to safeguarding against a potential conflict of interest arising from acting as a trustee of the trust while also providing professional services to the trust".

The trust, which had an income of £833,622 in the year to April 2013, provides grants to organisations including the British Liver Trust, Sightsavers International and the British Council for the Prevention of Blindness.

Its 2012/13 accounts show it made grants totalling £715,293 and had funds of £24.2m at the end of the year.

Rowntree is listed as the main contact for the charity on its entry on the Charity Commission’s online register. He declined to comment when his office was contacted by Third Sector.

A spokeswoman for the Charity Commission said it had received complaints about trustee payments and conflicts of interest at the charity.

"We gave the trustees advice about the power to pay trustees, their duties regarding decision-making and their responsibility to recover payments if they have been made in breach of trust," she said.

"We decided not to take any further action than this because there was insufficient evidence to conclude that the trustees had acted outside their discretionary powers. We will intervene in cases only where there is clear evidence of serious misconduct or mismanagement."

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