Commission criticises charity's 'weak financial controls'

A charity has been told it must tighten its procedures after finding it had paid its former clerk more than £75,000 in unexplained legal expenses.

The William Parker Foundation – an education charity with an annual income of about £45,000 that supports the William Parker School in Hastings, East Sussex – was criticised by the Charity Commission for having “weak financial controls”.

The commission concluded its investigation in 2004, but publication of its report on the findings of the investigation was delayed until the completion of a court case against the former clerk, who was found guilty of deception in altering a cheque.

In its report on the findings of the investigation, the commission said that trustees had signed blank cheques for the former clerk to complete, and could not explain how his salary tripled after he had been with the foundation for eight years. It said that the trustees had failed to sign off accounts for many years and had not always sought independent legal advice.

The former clerk consistently denied any wrongdoing or any liability for the missing sum, but has made a £25,000 repayment to the foundation. The foundation will not carry out legal proceedings to recover more money.

The trustees present at the time the irregularities were reported have resigned and have been replaced with a new board.

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