Regulator finds mismanagement at Christian broadcasting charity

12 Oct 2020 News

A charity with an “unwieldy structure” could not show how decisions were being made in the interests of its beneficiaries, meaning trustees were guilty of mismanagement, the Charity Commission has said. 

The regulator published an inquiry report into the Revelation Foundation, a Christian broadcaster, on Friday. It uncovered flaws in its structure and serious governance failings that amount to mismanagement by its trustees.

The Revelation Foundation is involved in creating and broadcasting Christian content programmes for television.

The Commission opened an inquiry into the charity in 2014 following concerns raised by the public that the charity was being used for private advantage. The charity had recently moved most of its operations to Spain, and in doing so “had developed an overly complex operating structure”.

Governance failings

The Commission found no evidence to support the allegation of private advantage, but its investigation instead exposed a series of governance failings on the part of the charity.

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.

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.

The regulator also found the charity’s founder Howard Conder, who had links to companies involved in the delivery of the charity’s activities and was a significant donor, held a disproportionate influence over the trustees.

The Commission appointed an interim manager to the charity in June 2015. There was a significant delay during which the inquiry sought updates from the interim manager and the trustees expressed concerns that he had been in very limited contact with them. The interim manager was discharged in September 2018 on conclusion of his work.

Founder steps back from charity 

The charity has now made many significant improvements to its governance arrangements, which include Howard Condor stepping back from the charity and the trustees gaining a clearer understanding of their role and responsibilities.

Amy Spiller, head of investigations at the Charity Commission, 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.”

The Commission will continue to monitor the charity.

‘The Charity Commission realised what we already knew – that their major concerns were unfounded’

Chairman of the charity Peter Darg said:  “We are so pleased that the final report has at last been published and with the above conclusions.  Within a few months of the start of the investigation the Charity Commission realised what we already knew – that their major concerns were unfounded, but still the investigation continued and continued.  

“We are also pleased that the Charity Commission’s press release acknowledges 'the charity has, as a result of this inquiry, made many significant improvements to its governance arrangements.'  

“The Commission normally concludes its investigations within two years. In this case it has taken over six years, but we are pleased that we can now get back to what we do best – broadcasting Christian TV!”

Governance & Leadership is a bi-monthly publication which helps charity leaders and trustees on their journey from good practice to best practice. Written by leading sector experts each issue is packed with news, in-depth analysis and real-life case studies of best practice in charitable endeavour and charity governance plus advice and guidance straight from the regulator. Find more information here and subscribe today!

 

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