Regulator freezes Christian charity's bank account and opens inquiry

The Charity Commission says it has found cause for 'serious regulatory concern' at the Croydon Tabernacle in south London

Croydon Tabernacle
Croydon Tabernacle

< This article has been amended; see final paragraph

The Charity Commission has frozen a Christian charity's bank account and opened a statutory inquiry amid concerns about unexplained spending.

The regulator said in a statement today that an examination of Croydon Tabernacle's financial information "found cause for serious regulatory concern".

It said: "This included substantial unexplained expenditure and potentially conflicted payments to people connected with the charity.

"As a result of its concerns, the commission has frozen a bank account controlled by the charity."

According to the charity's website, the south London-based Croydon Tabernacle began in 1996 with a predominantly Nigerian membership and evolved to include members across the Ghanaian and Ugandan communities.

The commission said it began engaging with the charity in November 2016 and a meeting took place in February 2017.

"However, the engagement did not resolve the regulatory concerns so a statutory inquiry has been opened," the statement said.

The inquiry will examine any possible misconduct or mismanagement, whether conflicts of interest have been adequately identified or managed and whether connected party payments or transactions have been properly authorised.

Croydon Tabernacle's latest accounts, for the year ending 31 December 2016, are not available on the commission's online register of charities, although the entry does say the charity's income for the year was £383,746.

A commission spokeswoman said this "appears to be a technical issue".

Croydon Tabernacle's 2015 accounts show the charity had four staff and earned £271,000, of which more than half came from tithes.

It recorded a deficit in 2015 of almost £21,000 and, according to the accounts, did not meet its reserves policy of one month's unrestricted expenditure.

The document says it "should aim to improve and look at other sources to generate income to meet its need".

A spokesman for Croydon Tabernacle said: "Our board of trustees has received a notice of statutory inquiry from the Charity Commission. We have been assisting fully with their inquiries and, under their guidance, we will take appropriate action to make sure we are compliant."

< This story has been updated to include a quote from Croydon Tabernacle. The comment was supplied after our deadline.

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