The RSPCA needs to take swift action to address issues and widen the mix of skills on its trustee board, a review of its governance has concluded.
There are 40 recommendations which do not require any changes to the charity’s rules, as well as a number which the members will need to approve at the annual general meeting later this month. The charity said it is already taking steps to address the review's recommendations.
The main proposed changes are that the RSPCA should reinstate its ability to co-opt people with particular skills onto its council - the RSPCA’s board of trustees - and remove the requirement that committee members be drawn exclusively from the council.
Further concerns about its governance were raised this week when it emerged that its chief executive had left. Yesterday the Charity Commission warned the charity that if it did not deal with the issues there could be further regulatory action.
Crowe Clarke Whitehall was appointed to carry out the review of the charity’s governance last year as a result of concerns about how the charity was governed and a summary of the findings has now been published on the RSPCA’s website ahead of its annual general meeting later this month.
The council has accepted the proposed rule changes that and these will be put to a vote at the charity’s AGM, which takes place on 24 June.
The review urges the charity implement changes quickly.
“Where it is agreed that a recommendation needs to be implemented, we believe that it is important for council and management to agree a timescale and an individual who is responsible for overseeing the implementation process,” the review said.
It concluded that the current environment “requires a governance and management infrastructure and systems of operating which are not just robust but are also nimble and support the effective decision making process”.
It added that: “There is a perception that that there has been little constructive action and poor follow-through on past initiatives. Therefore we believe that the process of implementing change needs to happen quickly and decisively.”
The review highlights that the charity’s finances are stable and that it is delivering on its mission
Proposed rule changes
The review recommends that the RSPCA changes its rules so that it can co-op three people to its council, and that it should also be possible to co-opt non-members onto the council.
In 1997 the power to co-opt was revoked but the authors of the review believe this was unnecessary.
The review said that “the vagaries of a fully election-driven system cannot always be relied on to deliver the right mix of skills and experience”.
It added that “we believe that the Society will benefit from actively using the option to co-opt” and suggested relaxing the rule, which previously required co-optees to have been members for five years, so that non-members can be co-opted.
“We do not think it is necessary that the selection is made only from the members as the previous rule indicated but a co-opted person should become a member as soon as possible,” it said.
It also suggested changing the rules so that committee members should be drawn from outside of the trustee board.
Other proposed rule changes include clarifying that the 25-strong council is a maximum, not a requirement and amending the tenure of honorary officers (the chair, vice-chair, treasurer and deputy treasurer) from one year to two years.
Recommendations not requiring rule changes
Having reviewed the size of the council CCW does not recommend immediately reducing the size of the council, but does suggest this be considered in the future, alongside a review of the regional structure.
Other recommendations include carrying out a skills audit of the council, improving the information about people standing for election that is sent to members, establishing a governance committee and having staff attend committee meetings.
It also recommends that the charity publish short biographies of key people on its website.
In a statement on its website the charity said: "The council of the RSPCA is committed to the very highest levels of governance. As such, an independent expert review of the Society's existing governance arrangements was commissioned to ensure they are as effective as possible and in line with best practice.
"Whilst we are pleased that the review has recognised that the RSPCA is financially stable, is delivering on its important mission and has set in place measures to manage compliance and risk, we are not complacent.
"The review has highlighted a number of improvement opportunities and we are already taking steps to implement the recommendations. We believe that this will put the RSPCA in a stronger position to deliver its strategy and vision of working to prevent cruelty and alleviate suffering of animals."