Commission consults on regulatory approach

The Charity Commission is seeking feedback on the risk factors it considers before taking action on cases of suspected misconduct and mismanagement.

The regulator has published a discussion paper setting out what it considers when assessing how much attention and resources to devote to particular cases, including threats to charity funds, service levels, independence and levels of press and political interest.

Threats to the commission’s own reputation are also a consideration. A commission spokeswoman said this was because of the commission’s obligation under the Charities Act 2006 to protect the reputation of the charity sector as a whole.

“If a case receives a high level of interest from the media or Parliament, that is likely to mean it is subject to a higher degree of public scrutiny, which increases the potential risk to the sector’s reputation,” she said. “Likewise, if members of the public are confident we are an effective regulator, they will be confident that charities are accountable and being run effectively.”

The spokeswoman said the success of the commission as a regulator was based on the respect and trust placed in it by the public and charities. “The value of this trust cannot be overestimated,” she added.

The discussion paper also includes a list of “zero-tolerance” issues deemed worthy of immediate regulatory action. These include links to terrorism or extremism, as well as fraud, abuse of vulnerable beneficiaries and failure to act on commission instructions.

The paper admits the commission has been criticised in the past for sometimes being “disproportionately tough, not taking account of charities’ capacity to comply with regulations and, in other cases, taking an inappropriately ‘light-touch’ approach”.

To comment, go to the commission’s website or email. Feedback should be submitted by 6 November.

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