OSCR reports on its first year

Nearly 50 per cent of small Scottish charities submit annual returns that fail to make their financial results for the year obvious, and one in 10 fails to include its name, delegates at will hear today at a conference to mark the first year of the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator.

Jane Ryder, chief executive of OSCR, will also say that the regulator’s survey of returns submitted by charities with annual incomes of less than £25,000 also revealed that 82 per cent did not clearly identify the nature of their funds, 80 per cent did not include principal contacts and 69 per cent omitted trustees’ reports.

Unlike in England and Wales, there is no lower income threshold for inclusion on Scotland’s charity register, but an OSCR spokesman acknowledged that the figures illustrated the task the regulator faced in educating trustees.

“The trustees’ report is especially important because it illustrates to the public what the charity is doing,” he said. “It is the commentary that explains the accounts.”

John Naylor, chairman of the OSCR, will tell the conference in Perth that he expects the regulator’s impact to improve as it learns from experience and the information it gathers.

Separately, Marieke Dwarshuis, head of charities at the OSCR, will announce plans to ask charities more specific questions during the next stage of the regulator’s rolling review, which begins this month, in an attempt to make the process easier for organisations.

A spokesman for the regulator said: “Rather than asking ‘what restrictions do you put on your services?’, we will ask specific questions such as ‘do you charge any fees?’, so charities don’t go to the trouble of including lots of information we don’t require.”

The rolling review will assess each of the 22,000 organisations on the list of charities the OSCR inherited from HM Revenue & Customs to decide whether it meets Scotland’s charity test. The first phase will assess 30 of those whose cases seem most doubtful, such as independent schools, cattle breeding societies and miners’ welfare groups. Assessment will begin for the remainder of priority charities next June and for the rest of the Scottish sector in 2010.

A pilot study of 16 charities earlier this year found that they all provided public benefit.

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