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Commission to start spot checks on accounts of big charities too

Sam Younger, chief executive of the Charity Commission
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Commission to start spot checks on accounts of big charities too

Governance | Tania Mason | 29 Jun 2012

The Charity Commission is to expand its system of spot checks on charities’ accounts to encompass organisations of all sizes, not just small charities.

The revised policy is revealed in the regulator’s 2011/12 annual report and accounts, published today.  It states that instead of only conducting random checks on accounts of charities with income of less than £25,000, in future it will review a sample of accounts of charities of all sizes, to check that they meet relevant accounting requirements.

Where they don’t, trustees will be contacted “to let them know where they have gone wrong”.  The regulators will also publish details of the types of problems being found.

During the year, 86 per cent of charities filed their annual accounts within the ten-month deadline.  This is a marked improvement from four years ago when just 74 per cent filed on time.

In other figures, the regulator registered 5,601 new charities compared with 5,776 the previous year.  And it handled 1,191 Freedom of Information requests, up from 726 in 2010/11. 

Investigations and serious incidents

It completed 85 investigations, a steep drop from the 167 investigations of the year before.  It opened 12 new statutory inquiries during the year and completed nine. As at 1 April 2012, 27 statutory inquiries are still ongoing.

Of the 76 regulatory compliance cases closed, most were about trusteeship issues such as serious disputes, accounting issues, concerns about fraud and concerns about vulnerable beneficiaries.

During the year, the Commission received 1,027 reports of serious incidents from trustees, up from 849 the year before.  It also had 121 reports from whistleblowers about charities, almost all of which came from auditors, employees or local authorities. Around half of these concerned issues of dishonesty or fraud.

Staffing and complaints

The report shows that the size of the Commission’s workforce has reduced from 405 full-time equivalent staff at the end of March 2011 to 337 a year later.  It notes: “We are pleased to have achieved the majority of the staff reductions necessary to meet the budget reductions through voluntary means.” And later: “Only one formal complaint was received during a redeployment process in which the Commission lost around 130 posts.”

Overall, the number of complaints about the regulator’s services increased from 59 in 2010/11 to 61.  Out of 12 cases that were fully examined by the Commission’s independent complaints reviewers, four were fully upheld and one was partially upheld.

One complaint about the Commission has been accepted for examination by the Parliamentary Ombudsman in 2011/12 and this is still under consideration.

Financials

Despite the Commission’s budget cuts, it has managed to return a surplus of £340,000 for the year, just less than the £370,000 of the year before.  The Commission’s chief executive, Sam Younger, was awarded a pay rise, putting him in the salary band £130,000-£135,000, up from £125,000-£130,000 the year before.  Outgoing chair Dame Suzi Leather managed to cut her hotel and travel expenses to £11,529 for the year, well below the £19,433 she incurred in 2010/11.

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