Concern Worldwide took disciplinary action against staff who made direct debit error

In April, the charity overcharged donors by a factor of 100

Computer error
Computer error

Concern Worldwide has revealed that it took disciplinary action against the employees responsible for an error that meant the charity charged thousands of its supporters up to 100 times the amount they had pledged.

The international poverty charity hired the accountancy firm Deloitte to carry out an investigation into what had caused the April blunder, which resulted in 24,700 of its direct debit supporters overcharged by a factor of 100. Supporters usually donating £5 a month, for example, were instead charged £500.

A spokeswoman for the charity told Third Sector that Deloitte found the error was caused by an incorrect configuration of a new Bacs direct debit system recently installed by the charity. It had not been sufficiently tested and staff had not followed the charity’s internal control procedures, Deloitte found.

The spokeswoman said staff failed to verify the overall amount the charity’s donors were being charged that month before instructing the bank to collect the money from them.

She said disciplinary action had been taken against the employees responsible for the error but declined to say whether anyone had lost their job over the incident, saying that "HR processes" were continuing.

She declined to confirm how much money the charity ended up refunding to supporters and how much it spent on paying the bank charges and fees some of them incurred. But she said all the money was refunded by 6 May.

The amount had been anticipated to run into the millions.

It is not known how many donors withdrew their support from the charity as a result of the situation. Several had threatened to do this on social media when the error first occurred.

Deloitte made a number of recommendations designed to prevent occurrences of similar incidents and to strengthen the charity’s systems. The spokeswoman said Concern had accepted these in full and they were now in place, but she would not say what these were.

Rose Caldwell, executive director of Concern Worldwide (UK), said in a statement: "This has been an extremely unfortunate incident and we are very sorry indeed for the upset it caused to our donors, who we value hugely. We’ve now taken the necessary steps to ensure that mistakes like this are unable to happen again." 

The charity had initially said that KPMG, another accountancy firm, would investigate to find out what went wrong, but the spokeswoman declined to say why Deloitte ended up doing the work.

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