Charity treasurer wrote pre-signed cheques to himself

Charity Commission inquiry finds 'systemic malfunctions' at Birmingham community centre

The treasurer of a community charity in the West Midlands pre-signed cheques and wrote some of them out to himself as unauthorised payment for acting as the charity's deputy chief executive, a Charity Commission inquiry has found.

The two-year inquiry, which closed last November, discovered a string of governance failures at the Afro-Caribbean Millennium Centre, which operates a community centre in Birmingham and had an income of more than £750,000 in 2006/07.

The charity's then chair and treasurer had been paid for five years for acting as its chief executive and deputy chief executive respectively, according to the commission's inquiry report, released yesterday.

The inquiry found that the treasurer had written out and signed at least two cheques to himself as payment for his services. The cheques had previously been signed in a blank form by another trustee – a practice that had been going on at the charity for 27 years. The commission also found evidence that the charity had destroyed pre-signed blank cheques before one of its visits.

The chair was removed by the trustees at an extraordinary general meeting in July 2007. The commission decided last year not to remove the treasurer in the wake of an internal decision review after he and the rest of the trustees made a number of pledges, including to stop paying trustees and pre-signing blank cheques.

Wesley Hall, the charity's current chair, admitted there had been "systemic malfunctions" in the charity's governance, but said the governance arrangements had since been completely overhauled, with all of the commission's stipulations being implemented. He said that although the offending treasurer was still on the board, he was no longer treasurer.

"There were mistakes made in a period where the organisation was undergoing rapid development from a two-bedroom house to a £3m state-of-the-art centre," he said. "Three leading members of the board undertook to drive it forward, and unfortunately the other trustees put their trust in them to do things correctly."

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