Humanitarian charity criticised for poor financial controls

An inquiry report by the Charity Commission says there is no evidence Human Aid misapplied funds, but evidence of monitoring the end use of those funds was lacking

The humanitarian aid charity Human Aid has been criticised by the Charity Commission for failing to account for the use of its funds in Turkey and Syria.

In a Charity Commission inquiry report, which was released on Friday, the commission says it first began looking into Human Aid in June 2013 after concerns were raised about an event arranged by City University Students’ Union Islamic Society with which the charity was involved.

The report says the concerns were that people with controversial and/or extremist views were to be given a platform.

The report says that concerns raised in connection with the charity were then examined and, after a monitoring case, the commission found issues about Human Aid’s fundraising controls and the end use of its charitable funds.

In August 2014, a statutory inquiry into the charity’s financial controls and governance was launched. The commission focused specifically on the charity’s fundraising and its work in Turkey and Syria.

On the charity’s work in Syria, the report says that although financial policies to protect the charity’s assets were in place, "it was not evident that these were being implemented".

The report concludes there was no evidence that charity funds were misapplied, but says "there was an overall lack of adequate documentation to evidence the charity’s due diligence and monitoring of the end use of all the charity’s funds".

Therefore, the report says, "the trustees failed to adequately protect the charity, which is mismanagement in the administration of the charity in this regard".

The commission found a lack of controls for the charity’s fundraising work, especially street collections: the report cites two incidents of alleged volunteers being arrested in 2013 and 2014 cited in the report.

For the second arrest, which came after the opening of the statutory inquiry, new processes the charity had introduced based on advice from the commission meant it was able to categorically state the person arrested was not a volunteer for the charity, the report says.

According to the Charity Commission website, Human Aid had an income of £679,104 and spent £743,250 in the year to 31 March 2016.

In a statement on its website, Human Aid said it was disappointed with the commission’s conclusion that there was a lack of adequate documentation about how its funds were used.

The statement said: "Working in conflict zones presents challenges in collecting and collating documentation on time. It is not always possible to have the required information on demand. The collection and filing of all documentation in relation to partners and monitoring end use was not provided at the time the commission inspected our files; however, these were subsequently all provided for clarification.

"As the commission inquiry records, we did not just rely on paper documentation for monitoring end use; we also placed a team on the ground in Turkey to help monitor our end use of funds.

"We would like to thank all our donors and volunteers for their patience and continued goodwill. Our charity has taken the experiences gained through this inquiry to enhance our systems and processes. We have taken on board the commission’s guidance, along with the advice of expert consultants and lawyers."

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