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Equine charities have been reminded to keep their financial records in order after the Charity Commission investigated a horse sanctuary in East Sussex.

The Commission opened a statutory inquiry in 2011 into the administration and management of White Horse Stables — Horse Rescue in Staplecross.

The inquiry found that two trustees, who are related, had been signing off each other’s expenses, resulting in a conflict of interests.

The charity was also not meeting its legal requirements to submit annual accounts and other information.

The report concluded that the charity’s trustees had not fulfilled their obligations to file accounts, “amounting to misconduct or mismanagement”.

As a result of the investigation, the trustees took steps to improve practices including taking professional advice and appointing new accountants.

They also tried to manage conflicts of interest better and are now providing up-to-date annual accounts to the Commission.

Michelle Russell, head of investigations and enforcement, said: “This case is a reminder to trustees to ensure they keep adequate records about finances, put robust financial management and conflicts of interest processes in place and comply with the core legal requirements to prepare and, where appropriate, file annual accounts with the Commission.

“I hope other trustees read the report and take the opportunity to remind themselves of the basics by reading our guidance on conflicts of interest and internal financial controls for charities.”

The Lady chairman of the charity, Diane Barclay-Bernard, told H&H that all the problems had been resolved.

“We have taken everything on board and, moving forward, the charity is in good health,” she added.

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (20 November 2014).