Commission told of bullying, incompetence and waste at large charities

23 Nov 2018 News

Staff at large national charities have spoken of their lack of respect for trustees and leaders, and warned of bullying, incompetence and waste inside their organisations, a senior figure at the Charity Commission has said.

Writing in this month’s Governance & Leadership magazine, Neil Robertson, head of caseworking at the regulator, said the Commission had been told of serious failings in some large charities, and would in future be readier to call out inappropriate behaviour.

He said the regulator had approached staff at an unnamed large national charity as part of a review of its governance, and found serious issues.

“They did not hold back!” he wrote. “It soon became apparent that they had little respect for the trustees and no confidence in them. We were told stories of manipulative behaviour, incompetence, self-interest and what can only be described as bullying. 

“They suggested that some of the trustees were not acting with integrity and, consequently, the charity was suffering. The public would be appalled were they to find out.”

He said that at another large charity, staff spoke of wasteful behaviour.

“Their concerns were about the lavish expenditure by their charity that they continued to witness,” he wrote. “We were given examples of how funds had been spent on luxury hotels, entertainment in expensive restaurants and corporate hospitality. ‘We’re a charity, but we don’t seem to act like it,’ a junior member of staff emotionally told us.

"Another staff member asked: ‘Would the boy who just swam the Channel for us think we were spending thousands on a staff party that we don’t want?’

“All of these behaviours have the potential to jeopardise public confidence not only in the individual charities, but the sector as a whole. Under our new strategy, we will concentrate not just on compliance with the law, but will also call out behaviour that the public would not consider appropriate for a charity.”

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