Charity Commission to reconsider whistleblower's fraud allegations against prisoner counselling charity

Regulator agrees to review after it rejected complaint about Forensic Therapies without making a financial assessment of the evidence

Charity Commission
Charity Commission

The Charity Commission has agreed to reconsider an allegation of fraud amounting to £300,000 after initially rejecting a whistleblower’s complaint without conducting a financial assessment of her evidence.

Robina Husain-Naviatti, former deputy director of Forensic Therapies, which provides counselling services in prisons, made the allegations to the commission in April 2009.

She told the regulator she believed a £535,000 Cabinet Office grant for a project at Holloway prison had been recorded as only £240,000 in a business plan.

Husain-Naviatti also alleged that the Cabinet Office and a charity, the Southall Trust, had unwittingly both paid for her £35,000 salary. She suggested the money might have been "siphoned off or otherwise misapplied", the commission has confirmed.

In July 2009 the commission informed Husain-Naviatti that her complaint did not "meet the criteria for further investigation". She complained about this finding, but in September 2009 an internal review backed the commission’s decision.

Husain-Naviatti complained again to the commission, which referred the case to its outcome review panel, a team of its staff selected for their technical expertise.

The panel told Husain-Naviatti in December 2009 that the regulator’s decision not to investigate her allegations was "vulnerable" because it had been taken without making a financial assessment of the figures and accounts that she had provided.

The review panel asked the commission to look again at whether it should investigate Husain-Naviatti’s allegations. A spokeswoman for the regulator has confirmed that it is doing so.

The case is outlined in the regulator’s report, Customer Service Annual Complaints, Compliments and Feedback Review 2010-2011, published last month, but the document does not name the charity. The regulator revealed the charity’s name following a request from Third Sector under the Freedom of Information Act.

Husain-Naviatti was suspended and later dismissed by the charity after she made the allegations. In January an employment tribunal ruled she had been unfairly dismissed and ordered compensation reported to be £47,580. Forensic Therapies has now been put into liquidation. Third Sector was unable to reach anybody from the charity for comment.

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