Industry charity GroceryAid is involved in a police investigation after alleged fraudulent activity by a volunteer at one of its fundraising branches left the organisation more than £857,064 out of pocket. 

In a statement earlier this week, chief executive Steve Barnes said: “An individual in a position of trust, in one of our volunteer branches, had breached our policies and allegedly engaged in serious fraudulent activities.”

Chairman of the board Rushton Smith first made reference to the irregularities in the charity’s financial report published in January, which stated an effect on funds relating to branch accounts increased to a cumulative £857,064 up to the end of the 2016/17 reporting period.

At the time of its publication, the report stated it was only “possible to go back six years” to identify the frequency of the irregularity, meaning the full scale of the alleged fraud remained unknown.Barnes said that as soon as the activity was discovered, the charity “acted promptly and appropriately in these very unfortunate circumstances, informing the charity commission and the police, and bringing in forensic accountants to help us carry out a full and thorough investigation”.

The charity helps to advise and provide grants to those struggling in the grocery industry including shopkeepers. 

Senior positions at the organisation are held by industry leaders including Booker CEO Charles Wilson, Bestway owner Zameer Choudrey, Sainsbury’s CEO Mike Coupe, Morrisons chairman Andrew Higginson and former Minister of State for Trade Policy Lord Mark Price.

Last year, the charity spent £4.7m on welfare and supported 14,583 grocery colleagues, with the help of 309 volunteers.

In its most recent annual results, it registered £8m in income with the Charity Commission, but also announced that it had spent £9.2m. 

It said it had done this to meet rising demand for financial support.

The organisation told RN that a former volunteer had been charged with a criminal offence and is awaiting trial.

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