Sir John Bourn said the grant of £336,261 to the to the National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns ‘was entirely consistent with its stated policies and was therefore not improper’.
But he added: ‘The grant may have been less controversial if the Fund had made a wider assessment of the organisation’s activities in the first place. This would have allowed it to specify additional conditions at that stage.’ The Community Fund is the operating name of the National Lottery Charities Board.
The National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns, who first started receiving grants from the Fund in 1998, has the stated aim of providing practical help and advice to people appealing against deportation from the United Kingdom.
A statement from the NAO said it was not their role ‘to question the overall priorities or criteria that the Community Fund sets for making awards’.
Sir John said the fund had adhered to its policies and procedures in awarding a grant to NCADC, ‘however, these policies and procedures were not sufficiently robust and did not alert it to risks it was undertaking in awarding a grant to a body whose actions could be seen as political and doctrinaire’.
An NAO statement said that after concerns were raised, the Fund confirmed the grant award but added additional terms and conditions.
Following a review, the Fund is amending its policies and procedures so it is more aware of the day-to-day activities of the organisations to which it provides funds.
Commons Public Accounts Committee chairman Edward Leigh said later the furore surrounding the grant could have been avoided if the Fund had done its job properly.
He accused the Fund of ‘a severe case of tunnel vision’, adding: ‘had they done something as simple as checking the NCADC’s website, they would have seen that its activities were political and doctrinaire’.
He said this was the second grant to the NCADC and the Fund should have checked up properly after the first payment, which it ‘blithely’ declared successful.
He warned the public would stop buying lottery tickets if spending bodies lost their trust and worthy causes would lose out.
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