UK regulator probes charity group active in India

Britain’s charity regulator on Wednesday announced a statutory inquiry into the Harrow-based Devon Charitable Trust active in India following revelation that over £850,000 of its funds had been transferred to the bank account of one of its trustees.

The Charity Commission said it has been looking into the group’s work since August 2018 due to serious concerns about its management and administration, but it was escalated into a formal inquiry when its bank statements revealed the transfers.

The regulator said: “It remains unclear as to why the transfers were made or how they furthered the charity’s purposes. Furthermore, the Commission has concerns that donations are not being deposited into the charity’s accounts appropriately”.

“The regulator has therefore frozen the charity’s bank account to safeguard the remainder of the charity’s funds”, the commission said.

The group, which has offices in Canada, United States and Valsad district of Gujarat, has not submitted its accounts for the financial year ending March 2018, records show. Its income during the year ending March 2017 was £423,960.

The commission said other concerns about the group include the failure to file its accounts on time and the impact of potential conflicts of interest on the trustee board.

The inquiry will examine the extent to which the trustees have and are complying with their legal duties in respect of the administration, governance and management of the charity; adhere to the principles of trustee decision-making, including managing conflicts of interest.

It will also look into the issue of safeguarding the charity’s assets, prepare and file the charity’s accounting information, and the extent to which the charity has compiled with previously issued regulatory guidance.

The group’s objective is to relieve poverty and advance religion throughout the UK and world-wide. It says funds were raised for projects related to education, medical and religion in India, mainly for projects in Valsad that included school uniforms for adivasi children, water cooler and filter, water pumps and tiffin service for hospital patients.