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Investigation into governance at Wikimedia UK launched

02 Oct 2012 News

An independent "expert adviser" is to be appointed to undertake an investigation into the governance of Wikimedia UK after the recent resignation of its chairman and a further trustee.

An independent "expert adviser" is to be appointed to undertake an investigation into the governance of Wikimedia UK after the recent resignation of its chairman and a further trustee.

The Wikimedia Foundation, the charity which governs Wikimedia chapters worldwide, has called for the investigation to "ensure that governance arrangements are commensurate with the standing of the Wikimedia Foundation, Wikimedia UK and the worldwide Wikimedia movement", the parties advised in a joint statement on 28 September.

The review will consider Wikimedia UK’s current governance arrangements, internal policies including the trustee Code of Conduct, the Nolan Committee Requirements, the Conflicts of Interest policy, the Representing Wikimedia UK policy and other relevant policies of Wikimedia UK, and best ethical practices.

In the statement, posted on the Wikimedia UK blog, the Foundation and Wikimedia UK refer to the resignation of trustee Roger Bamkin on 23 September over a conflict of interest where he was paid by local governments to lead two Wikipedia-related projects - Monmouthpedia and Gibraltarpedia. The investigation will specifically address Wikimedia UK's handling of this conflict of interest.

Although not mentioned within the statement, the review also follows the resignation of Wikimedia UK's chairman, Ashley Van Haeften, in July after he was banned from editing the English-language version of the site for, among other things posting an inappropriate link and using ad hominem attacks to try to discredit others. Van Haeften remains as trustee but was replaced as chair by Chris Keating, whose trustee term will run until the 2014 AGM. Bamkin is yet to be replaced, leaving six trustees responsible for the governance of Wikimedia UK.

Control over funding passed to Wikimedia Foundation - UK chapter will lose out on gift aid

While the investigation takes place Wikimedia UK will not be able to process payments from the annual Wikimedia fundraiser, which provides the main source of income for the charity - the Wikimedia Foundation will process payments for the UK instead.

This transfer of control to the international organisation means the charity will lose out on additional funds generated from gift aid, which it would have received since gaining charitable status in the UK last year.

Last year Wikimedia UK raised £1.05M (although under a fundraising agreements half of this was transferred to the Wikimedia Foundation), and the chapter projected a substantial increase to £1.4m this year including gift aid, estimating that 50 per cent of donors would participate in gift aid.

But the organisations advise that the transfer will demonstrate the high standards of the Wikimedia movement:

"Wikimedia UK has the benefit of legal and professional advice to assist in understanding and handling conflicts of interests. The goal of both organisations in carrying out this review, and Wikimedia UK’s in deciding to absent itself from the 2012 fundraising campaign as a payment processor, is to demonstrate that we mutually recognise the importance of handling conflicts well beyond simple requirements of the law.

"We understand our responsibilities to you: the members of Wikimedia UK and the Wikimedia movement, its donors, editors, and readers," the organisations advised. 

The review will not, however, make any changes to Wikipedia's policies and practices, as reviewing Wikipedia's editorial policies is left "to the community", the organisations said.



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