Regulator censures African children's charity

Charity Commission investigation finds lax financial controls and a failure to provide CRB checks on child carers

A Christian charity for African children provided inadequate care for children visiting the UK and allowed trustees' unauthorised family members to complete signed blank cheques, according to a Charity Commission inquiry.

The commission began investigating the Association For Reaching and Instructing Children in Africa in June 2007 after it was alleged that trustees were receiving "unauthorised benefits".

Trustees were cleared of those allegations but the inquiry found that one of the three trustees spent a great length of time abroad and left blank cheques in the care of her adult daughter to use as required. Two of the trustees were also found to have authored their own expenditures without the oversight of an independent trustee.

The association organises an annual African children's choir tour of the UK, in which visiting children are cared for in the homes of local families. It was found not to have a child protection policy for the tour and had not carried out Criminal Records Bureau checks on host families.

The charity had been instructed in September 2007 to put a child protection policy in place before the tour in October of that year. However, it failed to act on the advice after having to wait for instructions from the Child Protection Advisory Service.

The association, funded predominately by organising sponsorship for children in a Ugandan village, had also been unable to provide a full audit of expenditure in Uganda.

The commission gave the charity six months to appoint four new independent trustees, bringing the total to seven. Trustees were also instructed to introduce stricter financial regulations.

Third Sector Online was unable to contact anyone from the charity for comment.

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