Removal of George Galloway charity from the register was an error, says regulator

Viva Palestina was removed from the charities register last month, but the Charity Commission says a computer error was responsible

George Galloway, centre, in Gaza in 2010
George Galloway, centre, in Gaza in 2010

The Charity Commission has suspended its system for removing charities from its online register after the charity Viva Palestina incorrectly showed up as having been removed.

The commission’s entry on its online register for Viva Palestina, an aid charity founded by the Respect MP George Galloway that has taken a number of convoys of food and supplies to Palestine and is the subject of a commission inquiry, said this week that the charity had been removed from the register last month because it "does not operate".

But a commission spokeswoman said yesterday that this had been a mistake.

"The charity was removed from the online register due to a computer error," she said. "The error does not reflect or change the status of Viva Palestina as a charity. It remains a charity and its online record was corrected overnight.

"We are investigating how the error occurred and have in the meantime suspended our systems for removing charities from the online register."

She said that as far as she was aware no other charities had been affected by the error, and she could not estimate how long the systems for removing charities might remain suspended.

Viva Palestina, also known as Lifeline for Gaza, was founded as a fundraising appeal by Galloway, the Respect MP for Bradford West, in January 2009, and ran a number of aid convoys to take food and supplies to Gaza.

The organisation was registered as a charity in April 2009, but has never filed accounts with the commission.

In 2010, an inquiry by the regulator concluded that the appeal had been mismanaged.

The commission opened a further inquiry into the charity in July this year. It has ordered Galloway’s spokesman, Ronald McKay, to prepare and provide accounts for the charity for the years to 2012.

McKay has appealed to the charity tribunal against the order, saying that he has never been a trustee of the charity and is therefore not able to comply.

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