CANON Andrew White has been disqualified for 12 years from acting as a trustee or holding a senior position in any charity, after another of his Middle East foundations was investigated over “poor governance and financial controls” by the Charity Commission.
In 2018, Canon White (right), a former Chaplain of St George’s, Baghdad, established the charity Jerusalem Merit “to support the Iraqi refugee community in Jordan”. It is registered as Canon Andrew White Reconciliation Ministries (CAWRM).
Two years earlier, he had been suspended by the Commission when it began its inquiry into his former charity, the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East (FRRME). The Commission’s investigation into FRRME concluded that Canon White had tried to pay money to secure the release of young girls held as sex slaves by Islamic State (News, 24 January).
The inquiry into CAWRM was opened in November 2018, shortly after a compliance visit from the Commission “highlighted numerous instances of poor governance and financial controls. It also indicated that the relationship between Canon White and the charity did not appear to be being managed adequately.”
In its final report, published on 23 October, all the three founding trustees of CAWRM (unnamed) are criticised for having conflicts of interest with the third-party limited company that was set up by Canon White to provide PAYE services to the charity. No legal advice had been sought on the relationship between the company and CAWRM, which was found not to be in the best interests of the charity, but had personal benefits for the trustees.
Initially, the charity had no written policies or controls in place, such as GPDR and safeguarding; meeting minutes were too thin to satisfy legal duties; and the salary paid to one of the trustees, who has since resigned but continued to be paid for employment, was found to be in breach of the charity’s governing document, which expressly prohibits payments to trustees.
The charity was also found to have funded the publication of several books written by Canon White, which he promoted and sold at charity events. The Commission found that there was an understanding with the trustees, but no written agreement, that the proceeds would automatically be donated to the charity, and no subsequent evidence that this had been done.
The Inquiry has ordered the current trustees to consider recovering any personal benefit to Canon White and formalising this relationship.
Moreover, charitable funds were held in the personal bank account of Canon White. They were not ring-fenced from his personal spending, and, because of this confusion, Canon White owes money to the charity — an unknown sum, owing to poor record-keeping. Despite an order from the Inquiry, this money has not been tracked down and repaid.
The current trustees have been ordered to complete a full reconciliation of Canon White’s personal bank-account statements to establish the total owed. If the funds have not been repaid, legal advice must be sought, the report says.
The founding trustees had also put charity funds at risk by couriering thousands of pounds in cash out of the UK. Generally, financial records at the charity were “unclear and did not account for the true picture of the financial position of the charity”, the Commission found.
CAWRM paid £3000 a month to a consultant for work on its behalf in Israel and Jordan; no receipts or a job description were provided. Between £4000 and £5000 a month was, and continues to be, paid to a school in Jordan, without justification, records of expenditure, or breakdown of what the funds were to be used for, the Commission found.
The report concludes: “In order to address the misconduct and/or mismanagement and the shortfalls in the charity’s administration, governance and management, the Commission issued the trustees with a section 84 Order and directed action to be taken to address these failings. The Commission will follow up with the charity to assess the current trustees’ compliance with the section 84 order.”
A footnote states: “On 30 July 2020 Canon Andrew White was disqualified from acting as a trustee and/or holding any office or employment with a senior management function in all charities for a period of 12 years.”
A spokesperson for the Charity Commission said: “The Commission took action to disqualify Canon Andrew White due to failings we uncovered during our inquiry into Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East, where he was a trustee. He was disqualified on 31 July 2020. This means he is unable to act as a trustee or senior manager of any charity in England and Wales for a period of 12 years.”
No announcements or changes have been made to the Jerusalem Merit website with regard to the charity or the position of Canon White.
Canon White, who has been approached for comment, wrote on his open Facebook page on Saturday, however: “Some of you may have seen or heard in the press today, that there has been a very negative response to my work today from the Charity Commission. I know I am doing God’s work for his people, I will not stop it.”
Another comment from Canon White described the inquiry as “a long-sustained and demonic campaign” from the Commission.