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Aid charity rapped by watchdog after five-year probe into finances

PUBLISHED: 17:00 15 October 2019 | UPDATED: 17:11 15 October 2019

The Whitechapel offices of the Aid and Peace Trust, as they looked in July 2012. Picture: Google Streetview

The Whitechapel offices of the Aid and Peace Trust, as they looked in July 2012. Picture: Google Streetview

Archant

Evidence of "serious mismanagement" has been found at an east London charity sending funds to Bangladesh.

The Charity Commission launched a statutory inquiry into the now-defunct Aid and Peace Trust in Whitechapel in May 2014.

In a withering report now published online, it found there had been "serious mismanagement and/or misconduct in the governance and administration of the charity", with £70,000 of funds misdirected and £50,000 unaccounted for.

The Aid and Peace Trust was also criticised over a potential conflict of intererst as the Chigwell-based co-ordinator was an employee of the television company used to stage a 2012 video appeal on the website.

In their final conclusions, inspectors wrote: "The charity was not properly governed, managed or administered by its trustees.

"As a result of those failings its reputation and charitable funds donated by the public to the charity were put at risk."

The organisation was first incorporated as a private limited company in 2010 by Chigwell resident Dr Foujia Zomo.

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It registered as a charity in 2011, with the stated aim of "advanc[ing] education in Bangladesh for young people who are socially or economically disadvantaged".

But in 2012, it launched a video appeal to say it was raising funds for Burmese Rohingya Muslims and victims of the Savar building collapse in Bangladesh, which the watchdog noted was "outside of the charity's objects".

An inspection in 2013 found money raised was not being accounted for. Cash remitted to Bangladesh was "transferred into the bank accounts of individual persons" with no indication how it had been used.

In the course of the statutory inquiry, the Charity Commission found total income for 2010/11 and 2011/12 was £58,970 and the total expenditure that was undocumented and unaccounted for was £49,771.47.

In 2012, the Aid and Peace Trust had "expended effort and resources" on the joint televised appeal alongside two other charities and a non-charitable political lobbying group.

In the aftermath, it found, the charity spent a total of £68,442.48 on charitable works that were "not within the charity's objects".

The Aid and Peace Trust stopped running in 2014 and was dissolved as a company in 2016 and the Commission has concluded that "serious mismanagement" had taken place.

During the inquiry, they noted, trustees had made sure that the £16,333 still in the bank account was spent in line with the charity's objects.

Each trustee has made a voluntary undertaking not to act as a charity trustee again for three years.

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