Bank accounts of Bristol charity frozen

Bank accounts of Bristol charity frozen

May 8, 2024

The Charity Commission has opened an inquiry into We Care Foundation after identifying irregular payments from the charity to its trustees which were not disclosed in the annual accounts

We Care Foundation was set up in June 2018 and supports the resettlement of refugees in Bristol and provides financial and other aid to victims of war or natural disasters overseas.

The Commission launched a statutory enquiry in June 2022 after concerns were identified in its governance and financial management, centred around substantial payments from the charity to its trustees and unrelated companies where trustees were directors. At the time, the charity had two trustees, Shazia Hussain and Sarwar Hussain who were married at the time.

The charity currently has three trustees, chair Shazia Malik, who has been a trustee since June 2018, and Farkrah Sujhaat and Sadia Assan Zeeshan, who were appointed in September 2022 and January 2023 respectively. A fourth trustee Isabella Pereira resigned last year.

The payments under investigation were not disclosed in the charity’s accounts and were not adequately explained to the Commission when investigators questioned the financial activity.

We Care Foundation reported total income of £216,498, including a £115,791 government grant for year end April 2023. Total expenditure was £232,283 on charitable activities, most of the money spent abroad on housing and development projects in Pakistan and a bakery in Yemen, while a rehousing project grant from Bristol City Council was used for furnishing homes for the refugee resettlement programme in Bristol.

Income was down from £283,980 the previous year, when the charity also secured a £131,000 government grant. Over the two-year period, it did not incur any costs for fundraising activities. The accounts for 2021 were filed 248 days late, but the last two years, they have been filed on time.

During the period when the charity had only two trustees, Shazia Hussain and Sarwar Hussain, their decision-making should have been limited to appointing the required number of trustees.

However, the Commission said that significant decisions about the charity’s finances and management were made at this time.

As a result of these concerns, the Commission has now frozen the bank accounts of the charity to safeguard its funds.

The inquiry will examine whether the trustees are complying with their legal duties and failures by the charity’s trustee board to engage with the regulator, including whether the trustees provided true and accurate information at all times.

It will also examine any unauthorised connected-party payments and trustee personal benefits, including an examination of the charity’s contractual arrangements with third parties.

Investigators will also identify whether there were any failings or weaknesses identified in the administration of the charity as a result of misconduct and/or mismanagement by the trustees.

The regulator may extend the scope of the inquiry if additional regulatory issues emerge.