An independent review of governance has been carried out at HIV Scotland after concerns were raised with the regulator about spending on consultants and advances made to the charity’s then-chief executive.
HIV Scotland appointed Alastair Hudson as its interim chief executive in January after the charity’s former boss, Nathan Sparling, stepped down at the end of 2020.
Third Sector understands that Hudson’s appointment prompted five out of nine trustee board members to step down following a disagreement about his appointment and a refusal to act on previous concerns, plus six out of seven of the charity’s staff have since resigned or been made redundant.
The charity said that Hudson has overseen an independent governance review.
Third Sector understands that members of staff and trustees had previously raised concerns with the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator about financial and governance issues, which included excessive spending on consultant fees, meeting expenses and advances made to the former chief executive.
HIV Scotland’s latest accounts up to 31 March 2020 show a total income of £302,000 and total spending at £299,000, including staff costs of £159,000.
Fundraising costs were £51,000 and it spent £248,000 on charitable activities.
Meeting expenses and consultancy fees were more than £28,000, and an advance of more than £11,000 was made to Sparling, more than £6,000 of which was still outstanding at the year-end.
Concerns were also raised about the charity's £25.9m pension deficit.
Kevin Rowe, HIV Scotland’s former fundraising lead, told Third Sector: “Three staff were abruptly made redundant without any staff consultation, despite external funding being in place for 50 per cent of one member of staff's salary until November 2022 – all three roles were, in my opinion, vital to the organisation. The other three, including myself, resigned.”
Rowe said he was signed off with work-related stress anxiety for six weeks before he resigned last month.
He added: “I could not in good conscience continue to fundraise for an administration which no longer felt aligned with my values and which had, in my opinion, mistreated staff who had fought very hard to make the charity thrive and [remain] stable throughout a pandemic.
“In the space of just a few weeks, my job turned from one of the best and most productive I've ever had to one of the worst.”
A spokesperson for HIV Scotland said: “Since Alastair’s appointment, an independent governance review has been carried out, and the relevant regulatory bodies, including OSCR, have been engaged.
“The governance review has outlined a series of recommendations which the board will now implement to ensure robust and transparent systems are in place.”
An OSCR spokesperson said: “We have received concerns relating to the charity.
“These concerns are currently being assessed in line with our inquiry guidance. We cannot comment any further at this stage.”