Commission to contact all charities where Paul Flowers was on the board

The Charity Commission is to write to all the charities at which former Co-op Bank chairman Paul Flowers was a trustee, to check that their governance systems are robust.

It follows the resignation of Rev Flowers from his position as trustee of the Terrence Higgins Trust this week, after weekend newspaper reports showed evidence of the Methodist minister buying hard drugs, and news reports that there were concerns about £150,000 in expenses claimed by Flowers while he was a chair of the Lifeline Project.

Expenses discrepancies

In 2004, Ian Wardle, the chief executive of the Lifeline Project, had whistleblown to Lifeline’s solicitors about discrepancies in expense claims submitted to Lifeline over a prolonged period by then-chair Rev Flowers.

Lifeline undertook an investigation and reported the matter to the Charity Commission. Rev Flowers resigned as chair of the trustees of Lifeline before the process was completed.

Expenses policy not in line with law

In a statement today, the Charity Commission said that Lifeline contacted it in 2004. A Commission spokeswoman said: “It appears that the charity’s expenses arrangements had allowed trustees, including the charity’s former chair, to claim expenses of a kind and extent (eg company credit card, lease car) that were not in line with charity or company law and not allowed by the terms of the charity’s governing documents.

“None of the files we currently hold suggest that the charity or the Commission considered reporting the matter to the police….It appears that at the time our main concern was the governance of the charity, which had allowed unlawful expense payments to be authorised.

“At the time the charity contacted us it had already put in place systems to ensure any future expense policies were in line with charity law and the charity’s governing document. On that basis, according to the records available to us, we did not open a statutory inquiry but submitted the charity to close scrutiny to ensure its new governance systems were robust.”

The spokesman also said that Lifeline contacted it for formal advice on taking legal proceedings against Flowers to recover £65,000 of expenses, but the matter was not taken further.

Read the rest of this article at Civil Society – http://www.civilsociety.co.uk/governance/news/content/16465/