The Charity Commission has criticised the trustees of British Pakistani Christians for failing to ensure proper safeguarding measures were in place.
The regulator opened a compliance case into the charity in 2020 after concerns regarding a specific safeguarding incident that occurred when it was operating overseas.
The Commission investigated the trustees’ response to the incident and found failures in its handling and its safeguarding procedures.
The regulator said British Pakistani Christians, formerly known as British Pakistani Christians Association (BPCA), had “broad charitable objectives”.
These encompass tackling poverty, conducting overseas programmes and religious activities, the regulator identified confusion among the trustees about the aims and activities of the charity.
It also criticised the charity’s lack of robust financial controls for its overseas work.
An action plan was issued to the charity in April 2020. While it had worked on the guidance provided, it had not complied in full, the regulator said, which resulted in it filing an official warning and action plan to address its failings in February 2021.
After assessing the charity’s progress, the Commission has warned the BPCA to continue following formal advice to improve, particularly in terms of conflicts of interest. The regulator has now closed its compliance case.
Conflicts of interest
Wilson Chowdhry founded BPCA in 2013 and it became registered as a charity two years later.
He resigned shortly before the Commission’s case into the charity began in June 2019, for “personal reasons”, he said.
His wife, Juliet Chowdhry, then became chair. According to accounts filed with the Charity Commission, there are currently three other trustees of the charity.
In 2021, Civil Society News discovered Wilson had maintained connections with the charity despite the regulator’s concerns about conflicts of interest.
BPCA admitted that last year it still operated from a building owned by the founder.
The Commission has provided formal advice to the trustees that address these concerns, particularly those concerning conflicts of interest.
'We are glad the investigation is over'
According to the accounts filed with the Commission for the financial year ending 2021, the charity’s total income was over £92,000 and it had a total expenditure of over £139,000.
Juliet Chowdhury, chair of BCPA, told Civil Society News: “We are glad the investigation is over and our focus can return to the desperate suffering people that we support.
“Working with the Charity Commission we have introduced improved safeguarding and other measures that enhance the level of service that we provide to some of the most vulnerable Christians in South Asia.”
‘Everyone who comes into contact with a charity has a right to feel safe’
Tracy Howarth, assistant director of casework at the Charity Commission, said: “Everyone who comes into contact with a charity has a right to feel safe.
“Trustees must make safeguarding a governance priority, ensuring that the charity protects people from harm, and responds promptly and effectively when things do go wrong. Unfortunately, that hasn’t always been the case at BPCA. We found the charity’s trustees lacked sufficient oversight and expertise to protect people who came into contact with the charity.
“I am pleased that our firm action in this case has resulted in clear improvements in the charity’s approach to safeguarding. We now expect the trustees to address outstanding issues, and ensure the charity’s governance improves into the future.”
This article was edited on 26 May to add a comment from the charity, which was received after the article was published.