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Statutory inquiry report into USPCA published

The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland, the independent regulator of charities in Northern Ireland, has published a statutory inquiry* report into the charity, the Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (USPCA). 

The key objective of the charity, a company limited by guarantee, is the advancement of animal welfare. It is the second oldest animal welfare charity in the world.

The Commission’s statutory inquiry, which opened on 23 December 2013, was focused on addressing concerns with the administration and governance of the charity. The inquiry report provides a full statement of the results of the inquiry and is available here.

The charity first came to the attention of the Commission on receipt of a number of concerns in the summer of 2013, asserting that the USPCA had no, or inadequate, procedures in place in order to achieve its key objective.

On looking into the issue, the Commission identified that a number of the charity’s policies and procedures were inadequate and presented a risk to the effective operation of the charity. The Commission was further concerned at the perceived lack of co-operation by the charity’s trustees with its investigation.

Following the opening of the statutory inquiry, the USPCA lodged an application with the Charity Tribunal for a review of the Commission’s decision to institute this level of investigation. 

However, the Commission continued to work with the charity to improve its governance and consequently the USPCA withdrew its application to the Tribunal in September 2014.

With the support of the Commission, the USPCA took action to resolve the issues raised and improve the charity’s governance, which included appointing an independent consultant to review the USPCA’s corporate governance and policies and make recommendations.

On review of the actions taken by the charity, the Commission is content that the risk posed to the effective governance of the charity has been significantly reduced. 

The Commission has now closed its statutory inquiry into the USPCA and is continuing to work with the charity to provide regulatory guidance and monitor the situation.

Myles McKeown, Head of Enquiries and Compliance at the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland, said: 

“Our aim is to support Northern Ireland’s charities in maintaining and, where required, restoring good governance to their organisations so they may operate effectively, for the public benefit and in accordance with the law. 

“This means, where possible and as appropriate to the level of risk, we will look to work with a charity to resolve any governance issues identified.

“In this case, for example, thanks to the work of the Commission, the charity has improved its governance procedures. In fact, at the charity’s December 2014 AGM, the outgoing chair welcomed the intervention of the Commission in supporting the charity to improve its procedures and policies. The Commission has closed its statutory inquiry, but has kept a regulatory enquiry** open in order to monitor the effectiveness of the numerous governance improvements introduced by the charity.

“While it may be daunting to be approached by the charity regulator in relation to the investigation of a concern, if a charity takes steps to engage with and learn from us, a positive outcome for all can be achieved.”

Ends

For more information please contact Shirley Kernan, Charity Commission for Northern Ireland Communications Officer, on telephone: 028 3832 0169, mobile: 07827338978 or email: shirley.kernan@charitycommissionni.org.uk 

Notes to editors

The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland is the independent regulator of charities in Northern Ireland.

The Commission has statutory objectives to ensure trustees comply with their legal obligations in managing charities, and to increase public trust and confidence in charities. This includes a statutory function to identify and investigate apparent misconduct or mismanagement in the administration of charities, and to take remedial or protective action. 

*Under statutory inquiry, the Commission may use its most stringent powers under the Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 2008 to address concerns about a charity. The Commission will undertake a statutory inquiry if there is serious and substantial risk to the assets or beneficiaries of a charity. 

** A regulatory enquiry will often result in the Commission making recommendations to the charity, including a timeframe for implementation and follow up monitoring by the Commission to ensure compliance.