Over the past couple of weeks, the Charity Commission has issued its second Official Warning - this time to the Gurdwara Guru Nanak Parkash, Coventry.
The Official Warning, published on the Commission's website, has not been accompanied by a case report (as was the case with the first Official Warning - discussed here: http://www.brabners.com/blogs/charities/official-warnings) but the content of the warning does set out a list of misdemeanours to which it relates.
The two issues that stand out are:
- The trustees failed to manage charity property responsibly or in accordance with agreed policies and procedures, in particular, by failing to take adequate steps to prevent the circulation of views or material that were or could be seen to be inappropriately political or extremist in nature on its premises; and
- Exposing members of the charity and its trustees to an undue risk of harm by virtue of repeated disruption on charity premises such that a police presence has been required on a regular basis.
Since William Shawcross became Chair of the Commission in 2012, the Commission has increased its focus on extremism, particularly in respect of religious charities. The absence of a case report makes it impossible to establish exactly what happened here. However, trustees of religious charities should ensure that robust policies and procedures are in place to verify and approve any publications issued by their charities and that secure mechanisms exist so as to enable people to report any concerns they may have to the trustees.
The regular police presence whilst uncommon, is not unheard of. We have seen similar issues in other charities. In many cases, the origins of such disputes arise from a failure to comply with the governing document leading to uncertainty as to the identity of the trustees, as well as a lack of clarity around trustee elections. Trustees should therefore ensure that they comply with their governing document at all times in order to reduce the risk of challenges being brought against the validity of trustee appointments.
Whilst some divisions of the Commission seem to slow down over the summer months, the Regulatory Compliance Team has been making consistent use of its new regulatory power, with Official Warnings being issued in July and August.
We await September's victim.
The Commission issued an Official Warning to the Gurdwara Guru Nanak Parkash, Coventry on the grounds that it considers the trustees have committed a breach of trust or duty or misconduct or mismanagement in the administration of the charity.