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UK News

Charity Commission discovers 'mismanagement' at popular British Christian TV station

by Will Maule

The Charity Commission says it has uncovered "serious governance failings" at the Revelation Foundation, which operates the Christian TV channel, Revelation TV.

The Commission opened up an inquiry into the charity back in 2014 after concerns were raised that the charity was being used for private advantage. Announcing the release of its report, the commission said it "found no evidence to support the allegation of private advantage", but that it had still "exposed a series of governance failings on the part of the charity".

The commission continued: "These failings included decision-making processes that were inadequate such as not obtaining professional advice before key decisions, badly managed conflicts of interest and poor financial oversight." 

The regulator also found the charity’s founder, Howard Conder, held "disproportionate influence over the trustees" of the foundation. 

"As a consequence of the governance failures, the charity developed an unwieldy structure which placed a significant proportion of the charity’s assets beyond its direct control and therefore at risk," it added. 

In 2010, Revelation TV moved its operations to Spain, where it converted an underground car park into fit-for-purpose studio space. In 2015, the commission appointed an interim manager to the charity to manage oversight of its operations during the investigation. At the time, Revelation TV told Premier that the interim manager was functioning as a "consultant" and was "not managing" anything related to operations or content programming. 

In relation the Charity Commission's latest report, head of investigations Amy Spiller said: "The public expects each charity to show that they are doing their bit to uphold public trust in charity more generally. This starts with trustees being able to clearly show how they are acting in their charity’s best interests and for its beneficiaries.

"Our inquiry found the trustees of Revelation Foundation could not show why decisions were taken or how they had acted in their charity’s best interests and that of its beneficiaries. Instead they demonstrated weak governance and oversight and ultimately left themselves open to allegations they were making decisions in their own interests.

"Whilst our inquiry didn’t find evidence of this, our work does demonstrate the importance of good governance and transparency to prevent a charity being exposed to undue risk. We hope other charities will look to this as an example of why effective governance is so important." 

In a response posted to its website, Revelation TV said the Charity Commission has "admitted its accusations were without foundation". 

"Within a few months of the investigation commencing the Charity Commission knew their accusations were not true, but still the investigation continued...and continued," the group added. 

Responding to the published report, the Chairman of the Revelation Foundation, Peter Darg, commented: “While the length of the investigation was inordinate, it is important to emphasise that Christian charities in the future should not be unnecessarily targeted for unwarranted investigations, and we rejoice that the charity’s reputation has been vindicated. 

"We can now move on to complete construction of our new international media centre in Mijas, Spain. Throughout the entire investigation process, Revelation TV has continued to broadcast a full schedule of programmes to benefit the public. It is just so sad that so much charity money, plus emotion and stress has been expended on an unnecessary investigation."

In response, a Charity Commission spokesperson told Premier: “We assess all concerns about charities against a clear regulatory and risk framework, and strongly reject any suggestion of bias in our casework. None of the factors we use to assess risk are based on religion. We publish transparency data about our inquiry work, and are clear that our investigations and our casework do not focus on any specific religious classification." 

The Charity Commission said that the Revelation Foundation had "made many significant improvements to its governance arrangements" in response the inquiry, which includes Howard Condor "stepping back from the charity and the trustees gaining a clearer understanding of their role and responsibilities". 

The commission said it will "continue to monitor" the charity moving forward.

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