OSCR gains order to freeze charity’s assets

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Scotia Aid Sierra Leone's assets have been frozen amid an ongoing investigation by the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator

19th July 2016 by Gavin Stuart 0 Comments

A charity’s assets have been frozen amid an ongoing investigation by Scotland’s charity regulator.

Scotia Aid Sierra Leone was reported in 2015 over allegations it was spending just 17p in every pound on charitable activities.

The Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) launched an inquiry into the Uddingston-based organisation, and has now announced an interim order has been obtained freezing the charity’s bank accounts.

A judicial factor has also been appointed following a petition to the Court of Session. Emma Porter, of Aver Chartered Accountants, will now administer Scotia Aid Sierra Leone’s finances pending completion of the inquiry.

The charity has further been barred from selling or leasing any of its property and its trustees have been suspended from management. 

On the basis of the information we have gathered so far, we are concerned that there is misconduct in the administration of the charity

OSCR said the actions had been taken over concerns of misconduct in the charity’s administration.

A spokeswoman said: “Our initial enquiries gave us concerns about the activities and financial management of the charity.

“It appeared that the trustees were not acting in the interests of the charity and with the care and diligence that it is reasonable to expect of a person who is managing the affairs of another person, which is a legal duty of a charity trustee.

“While our enquiries are still ongoing, on the basis of the information we have gathered so far, we are concerned that there is misconduct in the administration of the charity, and it is necessary for us to take action to protect its assets.”

The investigation was launched after two of the charity’s former employees alleged it to be a front for a money-making property scam.

They claimed the charity uses its status to reduce rates bills for businesses who are unable fill empty premises.

Charities are often given preferential rates when they move into empty premises, with some paying no rates at all for a contracted period.  

As businesses still have to pay rates on empty premises, the former employees claimed Scotia Aid would go into partnership with these companies, taking over the premises for a fee significantly less than the usual local authority rates.

Its accounts showed almost 90% of its income was from firms associated with property with some 27 different organisations or landlords paying Scotia Aid £867,017 in 2014.

The charity, which was first entered onto the Scottish Charity Register in 2010, says it uses the premises to store supplies and furniture intended for Sierra Leone.