There is “no evidence of charitable activity” by a mismanaged Gaza aid charity, according to damning report from the Charity Commission published this week.
Viva Palestina, set up in 2009 to fund aid convoys for the people of Gaza, may not have conducted any charitable activity or distributed any humanitarian aid, according to the regulator.
Its founders did not originally apply to register Viva Palestina as a charity but the Commission formed the view that it was a charity and must therefore be registered. Concerns were raised in 2013, when regulators began their investigation.
In their findings issued this week, the Commission said Viva Palestina’s trustees put publicly-donated funds at risk as a result of their mismanagement and/or misconduct.
Whilst the inquiry saw some evidence that monies had been used to purchase medical supplies in-line with the charity’s objects, there was “little or no evidence that humanitarian aid was distributed to those in need”.
The Commission said the charity’s record-keeping was so poor that “it was difficult to establish with any certainty whether any charitable activity had taken place”.
Although no money made its way to Gaza, one of the charity’s former trustees received payments from the charity and mobile phones and radios were purchased with charity funds at “significant expenditure”.
The Commission also found evidence of unauthorised payments. One former employee claimed that they had been ordered to make financial transactions by one of the founders and a former trustee, who had no authority to do so.
Auditors also noted a “lack of proper control over employment,” a “lack of oversight over assets” and “a lack of clarity among the former trustees as to who was responsible for the charity’s day-to-day running”.
They concluded that the trustees “failed to act with reasonable care and skill in the control of their charity’s funds and the charity’s day-to-day management”, which amounts to misconduct and/or mismanagement.
Michelle Russell, director of investigations, monitoring and enforcement at the Charity Commission, said Viva Palestina was a “wholly inadequately managed charity”.
She added: “The public has a right to expect that those who serve as charity trustees take their responsibilities seriously, properly accounting for the charity’s income, assets, activities and its expenditure. This didn’t happen at Viva Palestina.
“We found little evidence that the intended beneficiaries received the support intended, despite the extensive fundraising by Viva Palestina. The former trustees thus badly let down the public to whom the charity is accountable.”