The Charity Commission completed 60 per cent more operational compliance cases in the year to March 2014 than it did the year before, opened more than four times as many statutory inquiries and made use of certain legal powers on more than three times as many occasions, new figures show.
Paula Sussex, chief executive of the commission, said the figures, contained in Tackling Abuse and Mismanagement, an overview of the commission’s case work, published yesterday, showed her organisation was "becoming the robust, proportionate regulator the public expects".
The report says that the commission completed 1,972 operational compliance cases in 2013/14, compared with 1,232 in the previous year. The number of operational compliance cases it opened was 1,865 in 2013/14, up from 1,513 in 2012/13.
Operational compliance cases are "aimed at ensuring trustees address any failures and weaknesses in their charities’ management", according to the report's glossary. They are opened in cases considered less serious than those that result in statutory inquiries.
The report shows that the commission opened 64 statutory inquiries last year, up from 15 the year before.
In the first six months of the current year, 604 operational compliance cases have been opened and 685 closed. The commission opened 68 statutory inquiries in this time.
The commission also used its legal powers to make 641 orders for charities to provide information, answers or documents in 2013/14, compared with 200 times the year before. These powers have been used 527 times in the first half of 2014/15.
In all, the commission says it protected £31.3m of charity money through its actions in completed statutory inquiries, higher than the previous year’s £800,000.
The commission also received 1,264 reports of serious incidents from charities in 2013/14, up from 971 recorded in last year’s report.
Of those 1,264 reports, the principal issue in 446 cases related to abuse of vulnerable beneficiaries, and a further 182 to beneficiaries at risk. Fraud or money laundering was the prime issue in 256 RSIs, and theft in 191.
The report say there were seven RSIs about abuse of charities for terrorist purposes and the commission made 84 monitoring and compliance visits in the wake of such concerns being raised. It shows that a total of 1,746 disclosures were made to the commission from other agencies, or vice versa, with 234 of these relating to concerns about terrorist abuse.
Sussex said: "This report confirms the progress we have made over the past 18 months in becoming the robust, proportionate regulator the public expects and charities deserve.
"Concerns about financial abuse and financial mismanagement featured heavily in our compliance case work again last year. We know the public places enormous value on sound financial management and accountability in charities. It is vital that charities live up to those expectations and are managed in a way that inspires public trust and confidence."
Asheem Singh, director of public policy at the charity leaders group Acevo, said he welcomed the commission's increased activity and use of powers. "But the commission has an equal responsibility to advise charities on good governance," he said. "It’s vital it strikes a balance between support and compliance. We’re working with the commission to improve both elements of its work."
A joint parliamentary committee is currently scrutinising the draft Protection of Charities Bill, which will give the commission new powers. It is supported by the commission, but some have given evidence to the committee suggesting that the commission could make better use of its existing powers.