Regulator probes governance issue at Christian charity

The Charity Commission won't elaborate on the issue at the Bible and Gospel Trust, which last year spent almost £280,000 on 'other' governance costs and paid more than half its staff £60,000-plus

The trust's website
The trust's website

A Christian charity that spent almost £280,000 on "other" governance costs and paid more than half of its staff above £60,000 a year is being looked into by the Charity Commission in relation to a separate governance issue, Third Sector has learned.

The Bible and Gospel Trust prints and publishes Christian literature by authors including John Nelson Darby, founder of the Plymouth Brethren in the 19th century, which practises a doctrine of separation from non-Brethren members.

The charity’s accounts for the year to 30 June 2018 show that governance costs accounted for £430,903 of the charity’s overall expenditure of £4.6m.

The previous year’s governance costs were £132,033, the accounts show.

They say that £279,603 of the £430,903 was attributed to "other governance costs".

The figures for "other governance costs" in the 2017 accounts were only £8,109.

The latest accounts say that other governance costs include the costs attributable to compliance with "constitutional and statutory requirements, including audit, strategic management and trustees' meetings and reimbursed expenses".

The accounts show that 14 of the charity’s 27 staff earned more than £60,000 in 2018, with the highest earner paid between £130,001 and £140,000.

In a statement from the trustees, the charity said the increase in other governance costs related to introducing two new systems for information security management and quality management, which it said would raise efficiency and reduce costs.

This included employing consultants to implement the new systems and to develop a range of new policies on topics such as an anti-corruption and bribery policy, conflicts of interests, financial controls and risk management.

The statement said that the changes had achieved major cost savings and were "a worthwhile investment in the best interests of BGT as a charity".

The charity declined to provide an explanation for the relatively large number of high salaries at the charity.

Charity Commission definitions of governance costs tend to include any money spent on the strategic management of a charity’s activities, as opposed to day-to-day management.

BGT has been the subject of a regulatory compliance case since November 2018 for a separate governance issue, a spokeswoman for the Charity Commission said.

She said she was unable to provide further details about the issue.

Third Sector began looking into the accounts after being alerted by a reader to the high level of other governance costs at the charity.

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