The children’s charity Save the Children has tightened its compliance procedures after it emerged it had failed to report a terrorist raid on its Somalian offices to the police and the Charity Commission.
The Sunday Times reported over the weekend that the charity was attacked by militants, reportedly from the al-Qaeda-affiliated group al-Shabaab, in early 2012, and supplies including food supplements, laptops and office equipment were stolen.
In total, more than £200,000 worth of goods were taken, according to The Sunday Times, although the charity would not confirm this figure, or the identity of its attackers.
Although the charity informed donors of the incident immediately, it did not report the raid to police or the Charity Commission until March 2014.
A police investigation was subsequently launched amid fears the charity may have breached the Terrorism Act 2000, under which it is an offence to supply money or property to terrorist organisations, directly or indirectly, and to fail to report belief or suspicion that this might be happening.
The investigation by the Metropolitan police’s National Terrorist Financial Investigation Unit closed in October 2014, and concluded no further action should be taken.
Justin Forsyth, the chief executive of Save the Children, said in a statement that it had alerted police and the Charity Commission about the raid "as soon as it became apparent that we may have had a reporting obligation to them as well". He said the charity had cooperated fully with the police investigation.
Forsyth said in the statement: "The reality is that working in war-torn countries and fragile states is tough and complicated but not doing so would leave millions of children without food, water, medicine, shelter and protection. Working in these difficult places isn't risk free. Aid is rarely but occasionally stolen."
He said that the charity did everything possible to prevent any money or goods falling into the wrong hands and that it had updated its policies and procedures "to highlight the importance of reporting, [that it had] undertaken a wide-ranging training and awareness raising programme for staff, and implemented further controls to reduce the risk of diversion in high-risk areas and programmes."
The Charity Commission issued an alert on 30 September, reminding charities of their duties under the act. It followed what the commission said was "a small number of recent cases involving the loss of charitable assets (both goods and funds) to proscribed terrorist groups overseas".
A commission spokesman declined to confirm whether the attack on Save the Children was among the cases referred to. However, he said that of the cases mentioned in the alert, "there was one case where, due to the delay between the time that the losses were identified by the charity and then reported to the police, an offence had been committed".
However, he said the NTFIU had concluded it was not in the public interest to prosecute.