Regulator upbraids charity that had to call police to several trustee meetings

The Charity Commission has criticised a charity where relationships between two factions of board members were so bad that police had to be called to several meetings.

The Charity Commission said it had concluded a long-running inquiry into the Central Gurdwara (British Isles) London Khalsa Jatha, after a new board of trustees was appointed to oversee the charity, which operates a temple in Shepherd’s Bush, west London.

The regulator opened an inquiry into the charity in 2015 because of concerns including possible private trustee benefit and a dispute between trustees that resulted in them not sharing financial and management information necessary to enable them to run the charity properly.

The commission appointed an interim manager to the charity in 2017 to determine its membership, although trustees would remain responsible for the day-to-day management of the charity, including its financial management.

In an inquiry report published yesterday, the commission said there were two groups within the former trustee body who were in “longstanding dispute”.

The report says the former trustees “did not always act appropriately during meetings”.

It says: “Meetings would often be disruptive and several ended with the police being called.

“This demonstrated to the inquiry that the former trustees were unwilling and unable to work together to make collective decisions, or act in the best interests of the charity.”

The report says the interim manager said that “the conduct of some members and the ongoing disputes were significantly more disruptive than had been experienced in other, similar work he had conducted”.

The regulator concluded that a new trustee board was needed to resolve the dispute, but the inquiry found the “former trustees could not be relied upon to conduct an election themselves, in particular one where the results would be accepted and respected by all parties”.

In April 2019, the interim manager was given the ability to facilitate the election of new trustees, which was supervised by an independent specialist company and took place on 1 March 2020.

A new trustee board of 15 people was elected, 11 of whom were not on the former board.

The regulator concluded that the disputes between the former trustees had a negative effect on the governance of the charity and meant they were unable to effectively manage the charity’s finances, the report says.

“Despite having been made aware of the risk to the charity and being provided guidance, the former trustees failed to resolve their differences and implement the guidance. This amounted to misconduct and/or mismanagement in the administration of the charity by the former trustees.”

But the regulator said the new trustees were capable of acting in the best interest of the charity and it therefore had confidence that they would take steps to implement the recommendations the commission had made.

It also said the new trustees could consider whether it was in the best interests of the charity to seek to recover any money lost due to a breach of trust and/or duty by the former trustees.

The report says that because of the volume and complexity of conflicting and uncorroborated information made available to the inquiry, it was not possible to determine whether there had been any private benefit to the former trustees with regard to the operation of the charity’s properties, or if any arising conflicts of interest had been properly managed.

The cost of the interim manager’s work reached an agreed cap of £45,198 after the work he was required to do turned out to be “significantly more complicated and extensive than originally anticipated”, according to the report.

The interim manager said he had not charged for the time above the agreed cap, which would have cost an additional £33,791, the report says.

A statement from the charity said: "The new trustees welcome the closure of the Charity Commission inquiry and concur with the findings in the closing report.  

"The new trustees continue to work towards implementation of the inquiry recommendations."

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