SDLP councillor at centre of complaint

The Sentinel has learned a whistleblower has raised concerns about transparency at the public funded Strathfoyle Community Association (SCA) with the Northern Ireland Charity Commission.

A letter of complaint was received by the Commission on May 22, 2012, complaining about a number of issues including the role of the association’s Secretary, Mr Hastings.

According to a confidential reply letter which has been obtained by the Sentinel, the regulator has investigated regulatory practice at the association which is charged with relieving poverty and sickness, helping the aged, advancing education and promoting the general benefit of one of the most ill-served areas of Londonderry, and made a number of recommendations.

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The letter states: “You may or not be aware but the Charity Commission (NI) have previously investigated similar concerns that you have raised relating to the finances and governance of SCA.

“The Charity Commission follow the principles of best regulatory practice, ensuring that actions are proportionate, consistent, transparent and targeted.

“After our recent investigation we made recommendations to the organisation to change their current practice.”

The recommendations concern “the charity’s finances; the transparency of the charity’s finances; the role of Mr Hastings within the organisation; the relationship between SCA and Strathfoyle Village Centre (SVC); annual general meetings.”

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The letter added: “On May 15 we issued a self regulatory letter to SCA offering the organisation an opportunity to rectify these matters of their own accord within six months.

“However, if the organisation fails to self-regulate after six months and you wish to bring it to our attention that practice has still not changed then please contact us again immediately,” the letter states.

The Sentinel repeatedly contacted Mr Hastings to try to ascertain what recommendations had been made and what action had been taken but no response was forthcoming at the time of going to press.

The Charity Commission also told the paper that it did not comment on individual cases.

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