Charity trustee disqualified over ‘offensive’ social media content and financial mismanagement

A trustee of the Ghulam Mustafa Trust has been disqualified after posting ‘offensive’ content on social media, the Charity Commission has revealed.

The regulator today published the findings from its investigation into the charity, which found its former trustees were responsible for a series of failings, resulting in misconduct and mismanagement of the charity.

The charity, which sought the prevention of poverty or financial hardship in Pakistan and was dissolved in February 2018, was probed by the regulator after complaints were made about a video posted on the charity’s social media.

Upon intervention, the regulator removed the video and the trustees were questioned about whether they were acting in accordance with charity law.

The regulator's inquiry found the trustees were unwilling or unable to properly administer their charity and failed to maintain accounting records. Furthermore, it found the board failed to have properly responded to and accounted for the failures made by one trustee in particular.

The trustee in question had created and/or posted offensive content on social media, with no oversight by the others and the trustees conducted themselves ‘below the standards expected of trustees’, the regulator said.

Collectively the trustees failed to comply with their legal duties under charity law and their charity’s governing document to produce their accounting returns within specified timeframes. One trustee completed the majority of transactions, with little or no oversight by the other two, the watchdog’s inquiry revealed.

It also found £10,000 of the charity’s funds expended in Pakistan were not accounted for and while some expenditure was supported by invoices, it was not always clear as to how the expenditure related to the charity’s work.

Two of the charity’s original trustees resigned in April 2017, leaving one remaining, who then appointed three new trustees to the charity. The original trustee was disqualified from serving as a charity trustee as a result of the findings of this inquiry.

The new trustees decided, in 2018, that the charity was no longer viable. The charity was removed from the register and dissolved on 28th February 2018.

Commenting on the inquiry, Charity Commission director of investigations, monitoring and enforcement, Michelle Russell said: “As regulator, we want to see charities thrive, and inspire trust. That means living up to the high standards the public rightly expect of those that enjoy the privilege of charitable status.

“Our inquiry found that one of the trustees abused his position at the charity in order to spread offensive messages on social media. It’s right that we took robust action to end this practice and the harm it could cause.

“The charity was also involved in couriering cash overseas, which is against Commission guidance. This practice is high risk and puts valuable charitable funds in jeopardy. In this instance, the trustees were unable to account for the charity’s expenditure.

“Through their misconduct and mismanagement the trustees jeopardised the trust that donors placed in those responsible for the charity through their use of social media and their poor financial oversight. The trustee responsible for creating and posting offensive material on the charity’s social media is now disqualified from acting as trustee.”

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