Charity transferred ownership of a school it ran to one of its trustees, regulator finds

The Charity Commission has criticised a charity that transferred the ownership of a school it ran to one of its trustees. 

The regulator today published its report about its inquiry into Avicenna Global, which was registered as a charity in 2013 with objects of the advancement of education with a focus on the works of the herbalist, scholar and philosopher Avicenna and ran a school in Sheffield for primary and secondary-age children. 

The regulator opened a compliance case into the charity in September 2017 after concerns were raised and escalated it to a statutory inquiry in June 2019. 

The inquiry into the now-defunct charity found it owned the school when it was opened in 2013, but it was transferred from the charity to a private partnership set up by two of the trustees in November 2015. 

The report says that in September 2017 the ownership of the school was then transferred from the private partnership to a trustee, who is identified only as Trustee A. 

The inquiry found that the charity’s bank accounts continued to be used in the operation of the school after the transfer, although this had stopped because the charity ceased operating in 2019. 

The commission said it met trustees and former trustees who had been in office at the time of the transfer of the school to the private partnership. 

The regulator said the individuals were not able to provide documents to show the transfer had been made lawfully or in the best interests of the charity. 

The commission found that the charity had not suffered a financial loss from the transfer of the school because it was not operating at a profit at the time of the transfer. 

But the regulator concluded that the transfer of the school was not made in accordance with the charity’s governing document, which did not allow for the transfer of income or property of the charity to any of its members by way of profit.

The commission also found that two unnamed trustees had employed family members to work in the school, which it said was in breach of the charity’s governing document and constituted unauthorised trustee benefit. 

The inquiry concluded that the trustees had not fully understood the charity’s governing document or their responsibilities in meeting their obligations. 

The trustees also failed to show how they were making decisions in the best interests of the charity, it found. 

In December 2020, the regulator ordered the trustees to wind up the charity and it was removed from the register of charities on 3 September.

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