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Gloucestershire Business News

Charity trustees who paid themselves £300,000-plus banned

Two trustees who ran a children's charity and paid themselves 23 per cent of its takings have had the book thrown at them.

David Swettenham and Helen King, who ran the Gloucestershire-based Jole Rider Friends were found to have received a total of £322,500.

The Tetbury-based charity aimed "to advance education, in particular by providing or assisting in the provision of facilities and equipment at schools and other educational institutions on the continent of Africa".

But the Charity Commission has now disqualified both Mr Swettenham and Ms King after it found they took unauthorised payments from the charity's funds - "which represented 23 per cent of all income received during the life of the charity".

Jole Rider Friends has also been removed from the register of charities.

"Despite lengthy correspondence between the commission and the trustees from August 2015, where it was made clear on a number of occasions that the payment of remuneration to trustees should cease, the trustees continued to make unauthorised payments to themselves stating that the charity would be unable to function otherwise.

"The trustees then refused to make restitution for the amounts that they had received on the basis of it not being in the interests of the charity to do so," said the commission report."

The Charity Commission first contacted the charity on August 26 ,2015, "in a pro-active enquiry as a result of the charity having only two trustees".

"On September 2, 2015, DS responded and stated that a formal conflict of interest policy had not been adopted by the charity and that a total of £33,000 had been paid to the trustees as remuneration."

According to the report "frequent correspondence" continued between Mr Swettenham and the commission.

"During the course of this correspondence DS (David Swettenham) stated that both the trustees had received unauthorised remuneration, from the financial year ended 2008, which contravened the constitution that both trustees voluntarily adopted, at a Special General Meeting, on 9 September 2005.

"Accounts for the year ended 29 March 2015 were filed 95 days late with the commission. The accounts included reference by the Independent Examiner to the making of unauthorised payments to trustees and inadequate stock control.

"The accounts for the period from April 1, 2007, to March 31, 2015, disclosed director's remuneration of £192,500. By the date on which the statutory inquiry into the charity was opened, the trustees had received a total amount of £322,500 which represented 23 per cent of all income received during the life of the charity.

"Despite lengthy correspondence between the commission and the trustees from August 2015, where it was made clear on a number of occasions that the payment of remuneration to trustees should cease, the trustees continued to make unauthorised payments to themselves stating that the charity would be unable to function otherwise.

"The trustees then refused to make restitution for the amounts that they had received on the basis of it not being in the interests of the charity to do so."

The inquiry found that the charity claimed that it had sent 13,697 bicycles to Africa. but was unable to supply any documents.

The commission said it had seen some evidence of the funding of bicycles, being transported to locations in Africa by third parties known to the charity, however there has been no documentation at all supplied to the inquiry that showed the funds of the charity itself being used to transport bicycles to Africa.

A number of County Court proceedings were also found to have been brought against the trustees by third parties for unpaid debts owed by the charity.

According to the Third Sector website King and Swettenham have sent a letter to the Charity Commission taking issue with the report's conclusions.

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