Viva Palestina, the charity founded by recently-elected MP George Galloway in 2009, has never submitted financial accounts to the Charity Commission, and is nearly a year overdue in providing required financial information to the regulator.
The charity’s director, Kevin Ovendon, says the Charity Commission is to blame for its delay in submitting accounts, and has complained that its entry on the Charity Commission website is misleading.
Viva Palestina, which supports people in Palestine, was formed in 2009 after the Charity Commission told Galloway that a fundraising appeal for aid in Gaza he was running had to be registered as a charity. At the time, the Charity Commission also opened an inquiry into the appeal following concerns over the financial governance of £1m it had raised. It was cleared of having links to the ruling party in Gaza, Hamas, but was criticised for its governance.
In a statement this week, the Charity Commission has said it has written to the trustees of Viva Palestina to tell them that their accounts are overdue.
However, Kevin Ovendon, the charity’s director, has told civilsociety.co.uk, that the Charity Commission is to blame for its delay in submitting its accounts and has accused the regulator of being “very unhelpful”.
“The reason for the delay is that for nearly a year the Charity Commission held all the books and records of Viva Palestina and during that time it was not possible to submit our documents to our accountant,” he said.
“We got all our documentation back in August of last year and it has taken time to go through all the backlog with our accountant. We are hoping to submit accounts with the Charity Commission very soon.”
Ovendon added that the charity had pointed out the reasons for the delay in submitting its accounts with the Charity Commission, and had asked them to make note of this on its entry on the Charity Commission website.
“There is the implication on the website that Viva Palestina is not submitting accounts. The Charity Commission has not done anything about this. It’s not very helpful.”
George Galloway no longer has formal connections to Viva Palestina, but Ovendon says he often speaks at fundraising events on behalf of the charity.
Galloway accused the Charity Commission of political bias when it launched its inquiry into Viva Palestina three years ago.