Three trustees of a charity set up to support deaf people were being paid without permission from the Charity Commission and in contravention of the charity’s governing documents, according to a commission report published today.
Deafinitions, which was registered with the commission in 2011 and had an income of £608,132 in 2013, cites objectives which include advancing the education of deaf people and the public.
The regulator’s report says that it became involved after the charity’s accounts for 2013 showed that three of the charity’s four trustees were benefiting privately from the charity. This was in contravention of the charity’s governing document, the report says, and required written permission from the Charity Commission, which had not been obtained.
The charity’s accounts for 2013 say that three trustees were paid "in relation to employment duties with the charity and not as a direct result of their trusteeship". The accounts also show that the trustees, Mr R Singh and Mr J Zaman, were paid £20,000 during the year and Mr Z Zaman received £12,500, although they add that "the right to pay trustees of the charity was agreed with the Charity Commission".
But the commission’s report says that the trustees had misunderstood the process they should have followed and that proper consent had not been obtained. It says the situation amounted to a potential breach of trust and gave rise to significant conflicts of interest. The report comments that when contacted by the commission, the charity’s trustees made it clear that none of the trustees were being paid for their work as trustees, but were being employed as staff members.
"The charity made a convincing case for this arrangement being in the charity’s best interest," the report says. "They explained that all three positions had been externally advertised but that no suitable candidates had been found. This was partly because of specific technical skills required for each of the roles (for example, video editing or filming skills), which also needed to be filled by candidates fluent in British sign language."
The trustees said they thought they had sought the necessary authority to amend the charity’s governing document and the commission recognised that there had been a misunderstanding on the part of the trustees as to the process they should have followed.
The commission told the charity it needed to ensure that the majority of trustees were unpaid and that these unpaid trustees should consider whether or not the employment of three other trustees remained in the best interests of the charity.
The report says the trustees cooperated with the commission and were keen to address the concerns as quickly as possible. Nobody from the charity responded to a request for comment on Friday morning.