Charities must accept transparency disclosures in public sector contracts, but should resist “at all costs” proposals to extend the Freedom of Information Act to the sector, Stephen Bubb, chief executive of Acevo, has said.
Bubb, head of the infrastructure body for chief executives, wrote in a blog post earlier this week that his charity plans to draw up a code of practice for information disclosure in public contracts, in response to suggestions from MPs that charities should be subject to FoI requests.
Margaret Hodge, chair of the Public Accounts Committee, told the Charity Finance Group conference last week that she favoured “open book accounting” by all organisations delivering government contracts, a process that involves sharing more financial information about contract delivery. She also said the Freedom of Information Act should apply to all organisations delivering government services, including charities.
Bubb said in his blog: “There has recently been debate about extending the Freedom of Information Act to charities. This must be resisted at all costs.
“FoI recognised that people have the right to know what public bodies do in their name and with their money. But charities are neither organs of the state, nor are they largely funded by the state.”
Bubb said charities should “aim to exemplify good practice and openness” but should “say no to the prying intrusion of the journalism that seeks to denigrate not inform”.
However, he said that charities delivering public contracts must be transparent about how money is used. He said it should be acceptable for commissioners to stipulate information that should be disclosed.
“Provided that the burden of bureaucracy doesn't outweigh the benefits from transparency, this is a reform whose time has come,” he said.
Bubb wrote to justice minister Simon Hughes in March after he suggested the Freedom of Information Act could be extended to more organisations. At that time the Ministry of Justice said there were no plans to extend the act to charities.