Interpal Put On The Spot

This is a guest post by The Insider

Here is a letter which has been passed to me, and which deserves a wider audience.

Dear Mr Hewitt

In your letter to the Independent newspaper this morning, written in your capacity as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the charity Interpal, you say:

“For years we have all been implementing ever more demanding ‘risk management’ and ‘due diligence’ procedures to ensure the correct use of donations.”

You have been Chairman of Interpal for many years. Do you also claim to have conducted “for years…due diligence” over the activities of some of your partner charities in the West Bank and Gaza?

I ask because video evidence exists of incitement to violence and hatred and the promotion of terrorist ideology in respect of several of your major partner charities which have been in receipt of substantial funds from Interpal over the years.

You will also recall the Commission found that your charity fell short of the due diligence expected from a charity operating in a region as volatile as the occupied Palestinian Territories. I refer to the following extracts of the Commission’s report of their inquiry into your charity published in February 2009 following transmission of the BBC Panorama programme “Faith Hate and Charity“:

  • “…the Inquiry concluded that the charity trustees: had not taken sufficiently rigorous steps to investigate allegations about some of their partner organisations, (Paragraphs 49-68)
  • had not put in place adequate due diligence and monitoring procedures to be satisfied that these organisations were not promoting terrorist ideologies or activities. Where procedures were in place, they were not sufficient nor fully implemented.(Paragraphs 115-147)
  • had not adequately managed the charity’s relationship with the organisation the Union for Good (whose President  is Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi). The Inquiry concluded that the charity’s continued membership of the Union for Good was not appropriate for a number of reasons set out in the report, including the involvement of designated entities in projects co-ordinated through the Union for Good, that designated entities had been amongst the Union for Good’s membership, and that one of the charity’s trustees was closely linked to the organisation.”

The Commission’s report disclosed that the trustees “regularly reassured” the Commission that they would co-operate with their inquiry. Indeed, responding to the Commission’s announcement after transmission of the Panorama programme  that they would review their previous (and second) inquiry into your charity, you issued the following statement: “We will continue to cooperate fully with the UK authorities  including the Charity Commission  in any enquiries they may wish to raise with us and to grant them unfettered access to our records, as we have always done to-date”.

In the event, the Commission say they encountered significant difficulties in securing the cooperation of your charity. For example, the Commission said the trustees had

  • “Missed extended deadlines for specific requests” such that the Commission had to resort to their powers under Section 8 of the Charities Act to get answers.
  • Claimed to have conducted what amounted to a “thorough investigation” into the BBC’s allegations whereas in fact the trustees appear to have done little more than accept assurances from your Palestinian partner charities with simple questionnaires. E.g. Q: “Does your charity urge hatred and violence?”  A: “We don’t support hatred or violence..”
  • Should have acted with “greater dilligence to satisfy” yourselves that your partner charities were “not directly or indirectly promoting terrorist ideology or activities.”

The precise matter over which you claim today your charity has been duly diligent for so long is ensuring the correct use of Interpal’s funds. And yet the Commission suspected this had been just a paper exercise:

“The Charity’s partners were required to sign and adhere to a Funding Agreement committing them to use the Charity’s funds for charitable purposes only and setting out the sanctions that may apply should they not do so. The trustees could give no indication of how they monitored whether partners complied with the Funding Agreement, or any examples of when they would consider it necessary to take steps to check compliance. It appeared to be a paper exercise.” (para 133 b)

Interpal’s partner charities were also required to fill in “Project Evaluation” requesting the justification for continued funding. However, the Commission found that these forms were “frequently left blank or inadequately filled in.” (para 133c)

What struck me about your latest claim to have practised “due diligence” for so long is that all of the above failures of due diligence by your charity were discovered by the Commission several years after the trustees had undertaken to the Commission to implement due diligence in monitoring your partner charities. This undertaking was given in 2003 following the Commission’s second inquiry into Interpal’s affairs.

When the Charity Commission published their inquiry report you said your charity had been “vindicated.” This was not the case.  Your claim prompted the Commission’s Chief Executive Andrew Hind to issue the following statement: “Our report does not give the charity a clean bill of health.”

What weight, do you suggest any objective reader should attach to any of your claims that Interpal has been run with due diligence uppermost in your charity’s collective mind?


John Ware

BBC Current Affairs