Charity that failed to report terrorist incidents found guilty of misconduct and mismanagement

A charity that failed to report that armed groups had seized a warehouse and three of its trucks in Syria has been found guilty of misconduct and mismanagement by the regulator.

The Charity Commission opened a compliance case into Human Appeal, a charity set up for the prevention or relief of poverty or financial hardship anywhere in the world, in December 2017.

The regulator said it opened the case after the charity submitted a serious incident report relating to two incidents. The first occurred in April 2017, when three of the charity’s trucks, which were carrying flour in Syria, were seized for several hours by an armed group.

In October of the same year the charity’s warehouse in Idlib, Syria, was seized by Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham, a proscribed terrorist organisation affiliated to Al-Qaeda.

In addition to the loss of aid and equipment belonging to the charity, the commission raised concerns that the charity had taken more than two months to report the incidents.

Trustees also failed to report the incidents under section 19 of the Terrorism Act 2000 to the appropriate bodies, as was their legal duty.

The charity’s then-auditors had raised further concerns over compliance with local tax laws in Turkey where the charity operated.

As a result, the commission opened a statutory inquiry in April 2018.

The inquiry identified a number of failures by the then-trustees and executive team, including a failure to comply with the charity’s own policies regarding reporting the incidents in Syria.

The organisation also failed to undertake adequate due diligence on some significant donations and partners, and to ensure compliance with local tax laws in Greece.

The findings also established that the trustees had failed in their legal duty to file statutory returns with the commission by the required deadline.

The regulator concluded there had been misconduct and/or mismanagement in the administration of the charity by the then-trustees, and identified that a significant factor was insufficient oversight of the charity’s executive by the then-trustees.

Commenting on the findings, Steve Roake, head of compliance visits and inspections at the Charity Commission, said: “Good governance is not a bureaucratic detail – it underpins the delivery of a charity’s purposes to the high standards expected by the public.

“Our inquiry found that the then-trustees of Human Appeal did not have the oversight needed regarding the activities of their charity.”

But the report acknowledged that during the inquiry, the current trustees made significant improvements to the governance of the charity, including changes in key personnel and other improvements in governance.

Mohamed Ashmawey, chief executive of Human Appeal, said: “We welcome the commission's conclusion of the statutory inquiry and its decision that there are no grounds for further regulatory action involving the charity.

“Human Appeal has been transformed by the fundamental changes that we have implemented over the last three years with the full support of the current chair, who commissioned the original independent inquiry and proactively alerted the Charity Commission in the weeks after his appointment in 2017.”

Ashmawey said the charity welcomed the commission’s guidance and its acknowledgement of the “significant improvements” in its governance.

He added: “As we move on, we will continue to put transparency and accountability at the heart of what we do and now focus all our efforts on saving lives and supporting vulnerable communities in complex and challenging environments around the world.”

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