Charity Commission opens compliance case into international aid charity

Regulator says concerns about the governance of Agapao International include its acquisition of a community radio station

Agapao International
Agapao International

The Charity Commission has opened an operational compliance case into an international aid charity that bought a community radio station.

Agapao International, an aid charity based in Rossendale, Lancashire, was set up to promote education and health, develop individuals and communities and empower people, according to its objects.

A spokeswoman for the commission said the regulator had been looking into Agapao since February as part of an operational compliance case.

She said that the regulator opened the case because it had concerns about the charity’s governance, "including but not limited to the question of how the charity’s mission is furthered by the acquisition of the Rossendale radio station".

According to a breach of licence notice from Ofcom, Rossendale Radio, a community radio station, had been broadcasting since 26 April 2010 and the licence was held by Agapao International. In March 2012 the station closed down because of financial difficulties, the notice said.

The commission’s spokeswoman said that as part of its compliance case the regulator expected the charity’s trustees to ensure the acquisition of the radio station was fully reflected in the charity’s accounts.

"One of the issues we have asked the charity to provide clear information about is the extent of charity funds that were applied to purchase the radio station," the spokeswoman said.

According to the charity’s accounts for 2009/10, in November 2009 Agapao International was given a building, the Mary Hindle Centre in Haslingden, by a charity that had ceased operating.

The charity’s accounts said the building has been renovated and housed Rossendale Radio and the anti-prejudice charity the Sophie Lancaster Foundation. Agapao’s accounts do not mention its purchase of the radio station, so it is not clear how much it paid for it or when it was bought.

Third Sector was unable to contact anyone at Agapao International for comment.

The commission spokeswoman said the regulator had also asked the trustees of Agapao International to "conduct a review of the charity’s governance, review the charity’s activities to make sure they are in line with its objects – and if relevant consider updating the objects – and clarify and review the charity’s relationship with its partner organisation in Uganda".

In December, Graham Jones, the MP for Haslingden and Hyndburn, raised concerns online that Agapao International intended to sell the Mary Hindle Centre. In an open letter published online, he said: "Quite simply I do not find it acceptable that an asset, Bank House Hotel – the Mary Hindle Centre – paid for and refurbished by nearly £300,000 of public money, should ever be disposed by anyone, let alone another charity that has fallen on hard times."

But the commission spokeswoman said the regulator was not concerned about the potential sale of the building.

She said the charity’s trustees were free to sell the property if they decide that it would be in the charity’s best interests to do so, providing they comply with the laws laid down in the Charities Act. "The proceeds would be available for the charity’s purposes, including acquiring another property," she said.

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