Government 'wasting money on duplicate funding website'

Office of the Third Sector criticised over plans for new website to list funding opportunities

The Office of the Third Sector has been accused of wasting money by setting up a new website htat lists funding opportunities for voluntary organisations.

The new site will partly duplicate governmentfunding.org.uk, which is run by the Directory of Social Change and has received government grants of £2.2m since 2003.

The final grant of £152,000 to the existing site is due on 1 April. It will then become self-sustaining through its 30,000 subscribers, of which only large charities pay.

The three-year contract for the new 'third sector funding gateway' is about to be awarded to another organisation, believed to be the NCVO. It will be free to use.

The gateway will have a broader remit than governmentfunding.org and will list non-government grants and contracts as well as government ones.

The OTS put the project out to tender after its Third Sector Review in 2007 identified a need for better information about funding opportunities.

The DSC chose not to bid for the contract. It said the site should be financed by grants and not owned by government.

"The OTS contract proposals appear to represent a wasteful duplication of effort to be funded through the public purse," said Simon Hill, chair of the DSC.

He said the new website would create a state-funded competitor to other funding information providers, including GuideStar UK, j4b, Profunding and CaritasData.

He said letters to ministers had been ignored and their refusal to "meaningfully engage" with the sector on this issue amounted to a breach of the Compact, a claim supported by shadow charities minister Nick Hurd.

Hurd said the Government could not stop reinventing wheels. "This is a time when the sector is looking for support and leadership. What they are getting is hypocrisy and muddle."

A spokewoman for the OTS said the gateway would reduce costs for organisations seeking new sources of income. "An open competition was the right way to proceed," she said. She declined to say what the site would cost.

The NCVO declined to comment.

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