The vast majority of Scottish charities are not aware of their legal duty to provide copies of their annual reports to anyone who requests them, new research has suggested.
As part of a study on transparency and accountability in the sector, the Institute of Chartered Accountants Scotland asked 545 charities with annual incomes of more than £100,000 for their annual reports and accounts. Only 75 obliged.
"The exercise to obtain the documentation highlighted the widespread ignorance among charities of the legal obligation that they must provide their annual reports and accounts to any interested member of the public," says An Exploration of Scottish Charities' Governance and Accountability, the report on the institute's findings.
Lorna Stevenson, one of the University of Dundee academics who wrote the report, said she was shocked by the poor response. "Even when we sent out a letter pointing out the relevant legislation, that didn't elicit the responses we expected," she said. "There seemed to be an element of 'why are you asking?'"
The report recommends that the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator should make charities aware of their legal responsibilities.
Kirsty Gray, head of monitoring and investigation at the OSCR, said: "Section 23 of the Charities Act is clear: charities must meet any reasonable request for a copy of the most recent set of accounts or the constitution.
"In August 2006 we issued guidance covering this requirement to every charity in Scotland. We continue to engage with charities where any breach is reported to us."