Regulator closes charity after ‘reckless’ trustees failed to prove how funds were spent

Education charity Grove Mountain has wound up after the Charity Commission found claims it was using funds to build bathrooms and installing IT equipment in Caribbean schools could not be proved.

The regulator opened an inquiry into the charity in 2017, after a third party raised concerns about its financial arrangements. Money was gifted to the charity via collection boxes and donations from the public.

The charity’s website claimed that it shipped books for libraries and computer equipment for primary schools to Jamaica. This claim was repeated in its annual report.

The charity’s Facebook page also claimed the charity was building a bathroom facility and an ICT suite for an unnamed school, or schools, in Jamaica.

However, the regulator found two trustees responsible for ‘serious misconduct and mismanagement’ in the administration of the charity because they could not provide any records of any beneficiaries of the charity and no evidence of the activities stated online, despite considerable expenditure of charitable funds.

The inquiry revealed computer equipment had been purchased, but none actually delivered to beneficiaries. It also found the charity’s financial controls to be inadequate – much of the spending was in cash and undocumented, while some of it was shown to have been spent on fast food.

Furthermore, the trustees did not submit an annual return, accounts or an annual report to the regulator for the financial year ending April 2017, which was in breach of their legal obligations.

As a result of the findings, the commission removed two trustees and installed an interim manager to Grove Mountain in October 2018, who wound-up the charity and distributed the remaining funds to a charity operating to support children’s education in Jamaica.

“When the public generously give to a cause they care about, they expect their money to be carefully managed to ensure it reaches the people who need it most. Instead, some of the trustees of Grove Mountain were reckless with these funds, acting against Commission guidance by spending cash on undocumented purchases and using money donated through collection boxes as their own. This was a gross misuse of charity,” Charity Commission head of investigations, Amy Spiller said.

“Our intervention has allowed the remaining charitable funds to go towards supporting children in Jamaica. For their part in misusing charitable funds and acting with insufficient care, it’s right that the trustees responsible have been removed.”

Three trustees were found responsible for misconduct and mismanagement in the administration of the charity. Two of the trustees' responsibility in the misuse of the charity was greater, so they were permanently removed from being trustees under section 79(4) of the Act.

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