Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland young people's charity closed after £50k went missing

The Charity Commission were unable to trace the missing money

A Lurgan based charity has been closed down after more than £51k went missing from their bank accounts.

The charities' watchdog closed down Growth for Adolescents and Providing Support (GAPS) after the money, registered as received by the charity, could no longer be traced.

GAPS was set up to work with young people in the Lurgan area to promote positive mental health and wellbeing.

A Charity Commission investigation discovered that £51,359 was missing from the charity's accounts and they confirmed that the matter has been reported to the police.

The commission began a statutory inquiry in June 2017 due to "the conduct of charity trustees in their submissions, mismanagement of the charity and lack of co-operation demonstrated."

They said that documents and details provided by the charity to the commission were fraudulent.

The commission also revealed that documents supplied to other funders were fraudulent, including documents which were submitted in 2017 under the name of a former charity trustee who had died in 2016.

Their inquiry also found that "no activities by the charity were evidenced by the Commission as furthering the charity’s purposes."

During the investigation the commission took a number of actions against the charity.

This included suspending and then removing a named trustee, suspending another trustee who subsequently resigned, restricting the charity’s financial transactions and appointing an Interim Manager (Deloitte (NI) Ltd) to manage the property and affairs of the charity.

On analyzing the charity’s affairs, the Interim Manager found that due to a lack of assets, the charity was not in a position to continue as a going concern and should be closed.

Myles McKeown, the Commission’s Head of Enquiries and Compliance, said charities were obligated to maintain extensive financial records.

“Northern Ireland’s charities enjoy a great deal of public trust and confidence – something which should not be taken lightly," he said.

“All charities should be operating in good governance, which includes keeping good records, financial safeguarding and acting in an open and transparent manner. If you have a concern about a charity, don’t be afraid to ask questions and seek assurances from the charity itself in the first instance.

“However, it’s important to note that this case is not representative of the many well governed charities in Northern Ireland who deliver an excellent service to their beneficiaries.”

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