Janine Oelofse reports in the EP Herald:

A FORENSIC audit into alleged maladministration in the George diocese of the Anglican Church has revealed R6-million has gone missing from the church coffers.

A Port Elizabeth auditing firm was appointed to investigate 1000 suspect transactions in the diocese after allegations of mismanagement surfaced at the beginning of last year.

Teams from the church were also sent to George to investigate the complaints. The provincial treasurer of the church, Rob Rogerson, said yesterday the audit had been completed, but parties who had been named were now being afforded the chance to answer queries.

“As is the case with all things, the auditors received certain documents. A lot of the R6-million was made up of money for which no authority could be found, or no documents could be found.

“There has to be an opportunity now for those parties named to come forward with documents.”

He said in some instances the individuals had already produced documents proving that missing money could be accounted for on their side, although the records for the church were not available.

“Another part of the process is the formation of a small committee that is sitting to assess the criminal and civil liabilities.”

Rogerson said if anyone was found to have been enriched, but without criminal intent, the funds could be recovered either by the person paying the money back to the church or through civil action.

“We might find that people who received money in error will pay it back, or if they default we can potentially take civil action. Of course, if there is specific evidence of fraud and theft, a criminal case will have to be made,” Rogerson said.

The church had also appointed an interim board in place of the board of trustees and finance to manage the assets of the diocese until the next sitting of its synod.

Rogerson said a report-back would be submitted to the Archbishop of Cape Town, Dr Thabo Cecil Makgoba, by the third week of August.

Bishop Donald Harker of the George diocese, who agreed to take early retirement, will step down on August 10.

Rogerson said as the Bishop of George, Harker had to take responsibility for the financial affairs of the diocese, but this did “not by any implication” mean he was to blame for the missing money.

“Donald had to step down, in terms of our canons, for the archbishop to appoint a board and take control of the diocese. Over and above that, there is a lot of polarisation in the diocese and we felt it was better to have a neutral party see this process through until the end of the year.”

He said the missing funds had been held by the church on behalf of parishes in the area and as such did not affect the payment of salaries to the clergy or the function of the church’s charitable role.

“There has been no reduction in the number of clergy or in the church’s charitable work in the community, but of course it has had an effect on cash flow. It is business as usual,” Rogerson said.

The Rev Canon Brian Marajh has been appointed to act in Harker’s stead until a new bishop is installed.

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