An operational compliance report by the Charity Commission into the charity responsible for constructing London’s Garden Bridge has concluded that trustees were acting in compliance with charity law.
The commission said that the case report examined the charity’s governance, specifically whether trustees were meeting their legal duties and whether the charity was complying with charity law. The case report did not examine matters such as the merits of the project, or how it was funded, which are outside the commission’s remit.
The National Audit Office has published an investigation into the Department for Transport’s £30m grant towards the projects construction of the project.
Margaret Hodge is also leading a review of the project and whether it can be considered value for money.
Process for awarding contracts robust
The commission found that processes for the awarding of contracts appear to be robust, but that trustees did not fully explore the opportunities to compare the critical paths of other comparable infrastructure projects, and as a result be better enabled to assess project risk.
It also looked at the management of conflict of interests within the charity, and found that they were managed in line with the charity’s policy. The regulator also said that it could confirm that benefactors were not party to contracts made by the charity.
Charity could ‘improve' annual reporting
The Charity Commission said that the charity met required standards of financial management, and had been able to justify and account for the high forward spend made by the charity, and how much it has spent to date.
However the commission said that it considers that trustees could make improvements to their annual reporting, and provide greater insight to the progress made and challenges addressed in their last financial year.
David Holdsworth, chief operating officer at the Charity Commission, said: “We have been able to offer public assurance that the Garden Bridge Trust is meeting its obligations as a registered charity and that it has the proper financial controls in place. We are aware of the considerable public debate regarding this project. Our role is not to comment on the merits of the project but to assess concerns about its governance and ensure it is compliant with the legal framework for charities.
“This case shows that high profile charities can attract considerable public scrutiny, and the public rightly expect charities to be transparent and accountable. Having trustees in place with the right skills and experience is crucial for a charity to operate effectively.”
'We take our responsibilities seriously'
The Garden Bridge Trust said it welcomed the fact that the regulator has “endorsed” its approach.
Lord Mervyn Davies, chair of the trust, said: "We are pleased this report recognises trustees’ financial management and our strategic leadership. The trustees take their responsibilities seriously. We welcome the fact that the Charity Commission has endorsed our approach and we are always looking to learn lessons and make improvements.
“The Garden Bridge is an inspirational project that involves the best of British design and innovation. It will be a landmark for central London and bring huge benefits to the capital and the UK. We now intend to draw a line in the sand about historical aspects of this project delivered by other parties and get on to make the Garden Bridge a reality.”