Flawed governance at NI animal charity has been improved, says report

A report by the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland on its investigation of the Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has been published today

USPCA: now has a larger board
USPCA: now has a larger board

An investigation by the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland found inadequate governance procedures at the Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, although the regulator’s report on the charity says these have since been improved.

The CCNI opened a statutory inquiry into the animal charity – which is separate from the England and Wales charity the RSPCA – in December 2013. The commission had been contacted with "a number of concerns asserting that the USPCA had no, or inadequate, procedures in place in order to tend to its key objective" in the second half of 2013, according to the regulator’s report on the investigation, published today.

The commission made a direction for the charity’s trustees to provide information and documents about the concerns that were raised. The report says: "The response received from the trustees of the USPCA to the commission’s direction revealed that there were a number of governance areas where the charity lacked adequate controls, which required significant and prompt remedial action by trustees,"

The USPCA then appointed an independent consultant who produced a number of policy documents for trustees, including a risk-management policy, a governance handbook and a finance procedure.

The charity has made other changes to its governance arrangements, one of them to increase the size of the board. "On review of the actions taken by the charity, the commission is content that the risk posed to the effective governance of the charity has been significantly reduced," the report says.

It adds that the commission’s intervention was welcomed by Ted South, chair of the USPCA, at its 3 December 2014 annual general meeting. The investigation was closed by the CCNI that same month.

A spokesman for the charity said: "We’re happy that a considerable amount of progress has been made. We have worked with the commission to ensure we have robust governance procedures in place to take us into the future."

The charity had initially opposed the inquiry, lodging an appeal at the charity tribunal in June last year against it being opened.

It was later allowed by the tribunal to withdraw that appeal, despite having initially being told that it would not be able to do so.

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