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UK News

Charity Commission finds 'serious' financial mismanagement in London church, bans trustees

by Tola Mbakwe

The Charity Commission disqualified the individuals after they resigned as trustees of Kingdom life Ministries, holding them to account for financial mismanagement, governance failings, and non-compliance with the Commission.

In the regulator's investigation into Kingdom Life Ministries, which was opened after repeated failures to file accounts, the Commission found that all trustees received unauthorised payments from the church between June 2013 and November 2018, totalling £456,853.

During an inspection of the charity's records, investigators found that the three former trustees had decided their own weekly salary payments of £200, £200 and £90 respectively. These payments were made in breach of the church's governing document, and continued even after formal regulatory advice instructing an end to these arrangements. A total of £28,971 was paid in the months following the inspection.

The former trustees claimed that other payments related to reimbursement of costs, but did not provide enough information to prove it. The Charity Commission said after being informed that the inquiry was closing, the trustees did submit invoices relating to construction work, international flights and video production, however analysis of the charity's bank statements showed that the majority of payments made to the former trustees were round sums.

Bank records also showed that over £700,000 in cash was withdrawn from the charity's account over 3 years. After being informed that the inquiry was closing, the former trustees submitted a list of estimated expenses, but these do not match the withdrawals.

In June 2018 an order was issued restricting financial transactions by the charity, but following the Order the inquiry noticed a significant reduction of deposits into the charity's bank account. The inquiry therefore issued a further order directing the former trustees to pay all existing charitable funds and future funds into the charity's bank account. All three trustees resigned 12 days later.

The Charity Commission also found that there were "serious conflicts of interest" that went unmanaged by former trustees. Two were married, meaning that there was only one independent un-conflicted trustee. Decisions were made without identifying, recording or managing conflicts, and the charity had no written policy or procedures to manage conflicts of interest. Over £38,000 was paid to individuals connected to the former trustees between December 2015 and May 2018.

The inquiry has disqualified all three former trustees of Kingdom Life Ministries from serving as a trustee or senior manager of any charity in England and Wales, for a period of ten years.

Amy Spiller, head of investigations team at the Charity Commission said: "We know that late filing of accounts can be an indicator of far more serious concerns within a charity. This inquiry has confirmed that, and brought to light some concerning patterns of mismanagement.

"Charity trustees should carry out their duties with probity and care. They should be driven at all times by their charitable mission and purpose, and a desire to make things better for the community they serve. This was not the picture painted at Kingdom Life Ministries, and it's right that those responsible have been held to account for their failings in the running of this charity."

The regulator issued a further order requesting the new trustees to address outstanding issues with the charity's accounts and financial management. It said they have already engaged positively with the inquiry.

"I hope and expect that the new trustees will be able to drive forward positive change at the charity, for the benefit of its congregation and people it helps."

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