The Charity Commission has opened a statutory inquiry into an east London health charity that was charged almost £180,000 by a consultancy firm owned by the charity’s chair.
The commission said in a statement today that it had opened the inquiry into Island Health Trust, which provides healthcare in the London boroughs of Tower Hamlets and Newham, after it discovered that the charity had used the consultancy company, which the regulator said had received "significant benefits" through its work on a strategic development project.
The commission began monitoring the charity in February after concerns were raised about the use of the charity’s funds and a possible private benefit to one or more trustees, and opened the inquiry in November after the relationship with the consultancy firm came to light.
According to the charity’s accounts for the year to 31 March 2016, Suzanne Goodband Interim Solutions invoiced the charity £179,176 for consultancy services related to charity development, strategy implementation and property development.
Shares in SGIS are wholly owned by Suzanne Goodband Board Solutions, the accounts show, which is solely owned by the Island Health Trust’s chair, Suzanne Goodband.
The charity’s accounts say that it complied with Charity Commission guidance and used a firm of solicitors when developing the service contract with SGIS, as well as setting up a board subcommittee to review and authorise payments to SGIS.
But the commission said it had regulatory concerns about whether spending the money on strategic development fell wholly within the charity’s objects, and whether the decision to enter into a contract with SGIS was in the best interests of the charity.
The commission said its inquiry would examine the administration, governance and management of the charity by the trustees, and whether there were any issues or weaknesses in the administration of the charity.
According to the Charity Commission website, the Island Health Trust had an income of £270,855 and spent £307,512 in the year to 31 March 2016.
In comparison, it had an income of £284,371 and spent £95,504 in the previous financial year, the website shows.
Island Health Trust said it was "committed to working closely and transparently with the commission during the inquiry".