The Charity Commission has opened a statutory inquiry into Al-Hijrah Trust, a Birmingham-based charity that addresses the educational needs of Muslim children across the world, over concerns about its administration and governance.
The commission said in a statement that it had opened an inquiry into the charity on 8 June following a compliance visit and inspection of the charity in February to assess whether the trustees had complied with an action plan issued by the commission.
"The charity’s trustees have repeatedly failed to submit the charity’s accounts within the statutory timescales and address concerns, previously raised by the commission, over the charity’s internal financial controls," the commission statement said.
The Charity Commission’s register shows that the trust’s accounts were filed between 171 days and 509 days late for the financial years 31 July 2010 to 31 July 2013. Its latest accounts for the financial year to 31 July 2014 were filed two days late and show that it had an income of £782,224 and spent £560,833.
The charity owns the land and premises occupied by a school, known as the Al-Hijrah School, which is an exempt charity regulated by the Secretary of State for Education. The charity is not responsible for the running of the school or its funding, nor is the school the subject of the inquiry.
Last year, a number of UK newspapers claimed that the trust had diverted £1m designated for a school in the UK to build a school in Pakistan. The charity rejected the allegations in a statement published on its website in December 2014. The statement said that the newspaper claims were "entirely false, unsubstantiated and extremely damaging" and that it was seeking an unreserved apology from the newspapers involved.
The commission said that the inquiry was examining the administration, governance and management of the charity by the trustees, including whether they had complied with their legal duties and responsibilities and whether there had been any wrongdoing. The inquiry will focus on the charity’s finances and the terms upon which rental income, derived from the school’s occupation of the charity’s land and premises, is held and spent.
The commission statement said: "The purpose of an inquiry is to examine issues in detail and investigate and establish the facts so that the regulator can ascertain whether or not there has been misconduct or mismanagement; establish the extent of the risk to the charity’s property, beneficiaries or work; decide what action needs to be taken to resolve the serious concerns, if necessary using its investigative, protective and remedial powers to do so."
It is the commission’s policy, after it has concluded an inquiry, to publish a report detailing what issues the inquiry looked at, what actions were undertaken as part of the inquiry and what the outcomes were. Reports of previous inquiries by the commission are available on its website.
Al-Hijrah Trust could not be reached from comment about the opening of the inquiry.