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Lurgan charity shut down after £51,000 goes missing

Damien Harte, the charity's former chief executive, denies any wrongdoing
Marie Louise McConville

A CO Armagh charity has closed after it emerged that more than £51,000 is missing from its accounts.

The aim of Growth for Adolescents and Providing Support (GAPS NI), which was registered as a charity in 2016, was to promote positive mental health and improve the emotional well-being of young people and adolescents.

Concerns about the charity, which was based at the Centrepoint leisure complex in Lurgan, were first raised with the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland in March 2017, amid allegations regarding the misappropriation of money, inappropriate private benefit and a lack of transparency regarding the sources of funds.

The Commission initially opened a regulatory investigation case however "the conduct of charity trustees in their submissions, mismanagement of the charity and lack of co-operation demonstrated sufficient risk for the Commission to act using its most serious powers".

As a result, last June, the Commission's investigation was escalated to a statutory inquiry.

During this, the Commission found that documents and details supplied to the Commission were fraudulent and at least £51,359 of cash noted as received by the charity could not be traced through the accounts. This loss has been reported to the PSNI.

It was also found that documents supplied to other funders were fraudulent.

The Commission also found that charity trustees failed to maintain accurate records of meetings or decisions of the charity, failed to demonstrate proper financial control and no activities by the charity were evidenced by the Commission as furthering the charity's purposes.

The Commission suspended and then removed a named trustee, suspended another trustee who subsequently resigned, restricted the charity's financial transactions and appointed Deloitte (NI) Ltd as an Interim Manager.

It was then decided 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: "All charities should be operating in good governance, which includes keeping good records, financial safeguarding and acting in an open and transparent manner.

"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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