A charity for vulnerable adults was seriously mismanaged by one of its trustees, the Charity Commission has concluded.
The commission found serious concerns over the activity and behaviour of one of the trustees of the now defunct Doncaster-based charity Rebound Gateway Group during a four-year statutory inquiry, the regulator says in a report published today.
The inquiry, which opened in 2012, followed allegations of harassment and bullying of beneficiaries, misappropriation of funds and beneficiaries being inappropriately charged, the report says.
The report says the commission considered using its new powers to permanently ban an individual from serving as a trustee at any charity, granted earlier this year in the Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Act, but it had been unable to because the charity was removed from the register in 2013, before the powers came into force.
The report says it appeared from the commission’s investigation that the charity, which provided advice, counselling and creative therapy for those suffering from mental illness, "was seriously mismanaged" and that there were "serious concerns regarding the activities and personal conduct of the trustee concerned".
As part of its investigation, the commission spoke to two former trustees of the charity, who left the charity in May and September 2011 over alleged harassment by the third trustee, who is not named by the regulator.
The two former trustees told the commission that beneficiaries had been asked to pay regular nominal cash payments of £30 to £40 for the charities services directly to the third trustee – but investigators could find no record of the payments being banked by the trustee on the charity’s behalf.
The charity did not have a separate bank account, and instead payments relating to the charity were made through the account of an associated company Rebound Doncaster Trading.
The report says: "There was no clear distinction between payments being made to or by the charity and RDT, which has made it difficult to account for charitable funds, or to be satisfied that funds had been applied properly."
The two former trustees said the third trustee had made all the decisions related to the charity and had not collaborated with them, frequently postponing meetings and minutes were recorded for any of the meetings which did take place, in breach of the charity’s governing document, the commission found.
When the two trustees left, the third trustee did not notify the commission and did not replace them, the regulator’s report says.
The commission found the charity was removed as a charitable company from the Companies House register in 2013 and so removed it from the charity register, but was unable to find out what had happened to the charity’s outstanding funds.
The third trustee never responded to commission attempts to contact them.
Although the commission cannot disqualify the trustee from serving on the board of a charitable organisation in the future, the report says the regulator was "taking steps to ensure it is alerted to and monitors the activities of the trustee concerned should they decide to be involved with or register a charity in future."
Michelle Russell, director of investigations, monitoring and enforcement at the Charity Commission, said the report was "a reminder to all trustees of what can happen in a charity where there is an individual who takes on excessive levels of control or dominance and others involved do not challenge or intervene".
She said trustee bodies needed to operate as a whole and accept collective responsibility.