The Charity Commission has suspended the trustees of Jole Rider Friends and appointed an interim manager because it has “serious regulatory concerns” about the charity's governance.
Jole Rider Friends was set up in 2005 and aims to provide bicycles for children in Africa to get to school.
A statutory inquiry was opened in September 2017 after the charity failed to file its annual accounts on time for two consecutive years. In the charity's 2015 accounts, the independent examiner had highlighted concerns about unauthorised payments and the charity’s stock control.
In a statement last week, the Commission said: “Although the trustees have since submitted the outstanding accounts, the Commission continues to have serious regulatory concerns regarding the charity’s governance, in particular relating to management of conflicts of interest and risk to the charity’s property.”
The Commission appointed Geoff Carton-Kelly of FRP Advisory as interim manager on 2 January. He takes over full control of the day-to-day management and administration of the charity until the Commission makes a further order. He is acting on a pro bono basis.
Appeal to the Charity Tribunal
Trustees appealed to the Charity Tribunal about the Commission’s order restricting expenditure by trustees, but this was dismissed by the Tribunal on 4 January.
The website listed for the charity on the Register of Charities now directs to one that criticises the Commission’s action and warns other trustees that their reputation can be damaged by false accusations.
The charity's accounts for 2017, filed in January 2018, say that the charity is struggling to operate while under investigation.
“The impact of the Freezing Order on the charity’s ability to function financially causes the trustees major concern. The charity cannot operate under the conditions set by the Commission and this has been explained to them,” it said.
Trustees say that they filed accounts late because of being “under-resourced”, adding: “Whilst the charity erred in this respect in recent years, it has never yet been late in submitting its VAT returns where HMRC penalties exist. There are no negative penalties, beyond negative PR, in the case of late Commission returns.”
Jole Rider Friends reported an income of just over £100,000 for the year to 2 April 2017.