The trustees of the Al-Fatiha Global aid charity failed to account for cash taken to Syria and are responsible for misconduct and mismanagement, the charity regulator has found.
In a report, the Charity Commission found several serious failures in the administration of the Worcester-based charity, including failures to properly vet, safeguard and oversee volunteers who represented the charity, and to account for the way in which funds were spent.
Al-Faitha Global’s trustees are Mumtaz Ali, Sajid Zulfiqar, Asfand Ali, Naida Dukovic, Iqraa Zaman, Bushra Hussain and Naeem Akhtar (the latter two resigned in 2019).
In December 2013, Alan Henning, who was associated with Al-Fatiha Global and other charities, took part in an aid convoy to Syria where he was abducted and later murdered by ISIS.
The father-of-two disappeared in December 2013 and was killed in October 2014. He is thought to have been murdered by Jihadi John, who was later killed in a U.S. drone strike.
A books and records check at the time uncovered significant weaknesses in the charity’s records, such that the trustees were unable to demonstrate where and how charitable funds had been applied.
According to its bank account, the charity went from having an income of £4,038 and an expenditure of £500 in 2012 to an income of £1,229,928 and an expenditure of £464,654 in 2013. According to its latest accounts in 2018, its income was around £296,000 income.
The Charity Commission said it was clear that the size of the charity had grown enormously but the trustees had not put in place adequate internal financial and governance controls and processes to appropriately manage an increase in income of this magnitude.
The inquiry further found that the charity’s trustees provided “little to no” oversight of individuals to whom they had delegated responsibility, including those that managed participation in convoys to Syria.
The trustees also failed to ensure appropriate authorisation and documentation around cash carried by individuals travelling on convoys. The Commission found that individuals travelled overseas carrying between £2000-£3000 each, but that there were “insufficient records” as to how cash or aid were applied in Syria.
In December 2014 the Commission appointed an Interim Manager to manage and administer the charity to ensure that proper controls were exercised and the charity’s funds protected.
The Interim Manager was also responsible for assessing the overall governance and activities of the charity and where appropriate taking remedial action to regularise the charity’s governance and activities.
Amy Spiller, Head of Investigation Teams at the Charity Commission, said: “Charity represents the best of human characteristics – that’s why the behaviour of charities, and those involved in charities, matters. This is especially the case where charities work to help the most vulnerable or work in areas of inherent risk for staff and volunteers.
“Sadly, we found that the trustees of Al-Fatiha Global failed in their legal duties and responsibilities. They put their charity – its people, assets and good name – at serious risk. I am pleased that the charity is now on a much more secure footing, with a largely new trustee board, and appropriate policies and processes in place to ensure the charity delivers on its purpose safely. I hope other trustees learn from this case – notably about the very serious risks involved in taking part in aid convoys.”
Al-Fatiha Global has yet to comment on the Commission’s findings and its website is not currently working. But the Commission says the trustees co-operated with the inquiry and that it is satisfied the charity is now operating lawfully.