Press release: New charity investigation: Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church; St Mary of Debre Tsion

The inquiry was opened on 6 October 2014 to investigate concerns arising from a long running disagreement over the trusteeship and management of the charity. The disagreement has, in the past, resulted in disruptions to the charity’s religious services and continues to affect some members’ ability to attend services.

The regulator has been engaging with the charity since April 2013 on a number of regulatory issues including whether or not there have been properly appointed trustees in place, the charity’s financial controls and management and whether the charity’s property is properly managed. The charity has also persistently failed to submit annual accounts and Annual Returns to the Commission on time.

Since May 2014, the Commission has sought relevant information to address the Commission’s concerns from the individuals currently administering the charity during its recent engagement but this has not been provided despite repeated requests to do so. This includes not complying with requests for information and declining to meet with the regulator.

The commission has therefore escalated its engagement with the charity to a statutory inquiry which will look at:

  • whether there is a properly constituted trustee board in place
  • whether the trustees of the charity’s funds have discharged their legal duties and responsibilities under charity law
  • the adequacy of the charity’s financial and risk management controls including any significant risk to and potential misapplication or loss of charitable assets
  • the repeated failure to comply with legal obligations in relation to the filing of annual accounts and annual returns
  • the administration, governance and management of the charity and whether, and to what extent, there has been mismanagement and/or misconduct on the part of those acting in the administration and management of the charity

The commission’s decision to open the inquiry has been challenged in the First-tier Tribunal (Charity).

The purpose of an inquiry is to examine issues in detail and investigate and establish the facts so that the regulator can ascertain whether there has been misconduct or mismanagement; establish the extent of the risk to the charity’s property, beneficiaries or work; decide what action needs to be taken to resolve the serious concerns, if necessary using its investigative, protective and remedial powers legal powers powers to do so.

It is the commission’s policy, after it has concluded an inquiry, to publish a report detailing what issues the inquiry looked at, what actions were undertaken as part of the inquiry and what the outcomes were. Reports of previous inquiries by the commission are available on GOV.UK.

The charity’s details can be viewed on the commission’s online charity search tool.

Ends

PR 92/14


Notes to editors

  1. The Charity Commission is the independent regulator of charities in England and Wales.

  2. Our mission is to be the independent registrar and regulator of charities in England and Wales, acting in the public’s interest, to ensure that:
    • charities know what they have to do
    • the public know what charities do
    • charities are held to account
  3. Section 46 of the Charities Act 2011 gives the Charity Commission the power to institute inquiries. The opening of an inquiry gives the commission access to a range of protective and remedial powers.

  4. The commission’s decision to announce the opening of a statutory inquiry is based on whether it is in the public interest to do so and with consideration of our objective to increase public trust and confidence in charities.

  5. An inquiry was previously opened into the charity in in March 2014. On 14 April the charity appealed the inquiry to the First Tier Tribunal (Charity).The commission reviewed the grounds set out in the appeal and accepted that it needed to reconsider its initial interpretation of the Governing Document. Because further clarification was required in order for the commission to satisfy itself on the proper interpretation of the governing document, the inquiry was closed in May 2014.

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