The Charity Commission has opened a statutory inquiry into the poverty relief charity Human Appeal after allegations made about the charity’s finances and governance led to the dismissal of its chief executive.
Othman Moqbel has denied mismanaging the charity’s funds and said he was mounting a legal challenge against the decision to sack him for gross misconduct.
Moqbel, a board member of the charity leaders body Acevo, was suspended earlier in the year after the charity reported its concerns to the commission.
The regulator said today it had opened an inquiry on 18 April into the charity, which had an income of £36.5m and spent £35.7m in 2016.
A statement on the charity’s website said: "Earlier this year, Human Appeal reported a series of allegations concerning financial and governance issues to the Charity Commission.
"Human Appeal’s trustees immediately suspended the CEO and appointed a leading specialist auditor to conduct an investigation."
Moqbel, who had led the charity for eight years, was dismissed on the basis of the evidence presented in the auditor’s report, the statement said.
A Human Appeal spokesman told Third Sector: "A disciplinary hearing based on evidence from the exhaustive inquiry highlighted a number of acts or omissions by Mr Moqbel that amounted to gross misconduct, and he has this month been dismissed, subject to his right of appeal."
Zahid Rehman, the charity’s director of communications, and Razaul Karim, its head of campaigns, resigned after they were also suspended, the spokesman confirmed.
In the statement on its website, the charity said it was "now implementing the changes in internal processes that were recommended by the independent auditor to ensure that this never happens again".
Moqbel told Third Sector: "To my shock and horror I have suddenly been ousted from a job I love and to which I have successfully dedicated the past eight years of my life.
He said the allegations against him were "highly distorted" and were not only personally damaging but "more importantly, catastrophic for the charity".
He said: "I have not, and never would, mismanage any funds entrusted to the charity. I welcome any investigation into the charity’s works and will make myself available to the commission if required.
"I have always taken my responsibilities to our donors, staff and beneficiaries extremely seriously and to suggest otherwise is not only utterly wrong, it is also deeply hurtful. I have always insisted on the utmost transparency in our work."
He said he was proud to have led the charity’s work and said that he would expose the "terrible smears for the fallacy that they represent".
Vicky Browning, chief executive of Acevo, said Moqbel had agreed to take a leave of absence from the Acevo board while he appealed against his dismissal.
The articles of association for Acevo say that all board members must be serving charity leaders.
"As well as sitting on the board, he is also an Acevo member and we are giving him the full support we would give any member in order to help him at this difficult time," said Browning.
A spokeswoman for the regulator said: "The Charity Commission can confirm that it has opened a statutory inquiry into Human Appeal to investigate serious concerns about its administration, including failures to account for the charity's funds and failures to adhere to the charity’s policies and procedures."
She said the charity’s trustees had been fully cooperative with the commission.