The Charity Commission has removed a trustee at an animal charity that relied on social media for updates on its overseas work.
The commission said it had opened a statutory inquiry into Action Aid for Animals, which looks after neglected animals in Romania, in 2016 after a trustee at the charity, Kendra Pinder, accepted that there was no audit trail of how charitable money was spent overseas.
Instead, social media and photographs were used to show what work had taken place abroad, the commission said.
The inquiry, which concluded today, also found serious financial mismanagement at the charity, with a significant amount of its funds unaccounted for.
Pinder had previously been disqualified as a trustee, but had returned to the charity in 2012 after her ban came to an end.
The commission said that the trustee who was removed had set up a separate non-charitable organisation called Ticket to Freedom, which used the charity’s name, logo and registered number to raise funds.
Funds intended for the charity were therefore diverted into a PayPal account under the sole control of the trustee and linked to her bank account, the commission’s report says.
Pinder used the charity’s social media accounts to ask donors to make direct-debit payments to the PayPal account, alleging they would be safer to use than the charity’s account, according to the commission.
The commission said that Pinder was unable and unwilling to show how funds diverted to Ticket to Freedom had been spent, and her misconduct and/or mismanagement had cost the charity £63,000.
But the other two trustees told the commission that it was likely the diverted funds were applied to further the purpose of the charity.
The commission was also unable to verify that Pinder had, as previously claimed, loaned £42,000 to the charity and found evidence only that £5,643 had been given to the charity by Pinder.
The commission said that Pinder was removed and permanently disqualified on 27 March 2018.
Accounts for the charity had persistently not been filed, the commission said, and there was no dedicated role at the charity for managing its finances or administration.
Pinder had told the commission in 2017 that despite the charity’s 2016 accounts explicitly committing it to better record-keeping, she was "no good with accounts" and did not want to have "anything to do with admin".
The latest accounts available for the charity – which cover the year to 5 July 2017 – show an income of £97,519 and spending of £94,478.
The charity’s income was £249,508 in 2014 and all of the last five sets of accounts have either been submitted late or, in the case of the 2015 accounts, not submitted at all.
The other trustees have remained in charge of the charity and are now in control of the charity’s bank accounts as well as submitting the charity’s accounts.