The Office for Civil Society has declined to release documents about its decision to award two grants from the Social Action Fund to the Citizenship Foundation after a source told Third Sector the double award was caused by administrative errors.
The fund is awarding more than £20m in two rounds to projects that encourage people to give time or resources. Two of the 16 projects chosen in the first round this year were from the foundation, which promotes civic participation.
One, worth £300,000, was for a project called Giving Nation; another, for £200,000, went to an initiative called Go-Givers. No other organisation was funded for more than one project.
The source, who is connected to the application process, said: "Administrators intended to commission one project but there was confusion about which one and two civil servants each sent an email, relating to different projects.
"There was then a general hand-wringing and the courageous decision to make it look like the plan was to spend on two projects all along rather than own up to a mistake." The source said no blame should be attributed to the foundation.
An OCS spokesman told Third Sector that the fund, which is being administered by the Social Investment Business, chose two of the foundation’s projects "based on their respective strengths and only after due process".
He said: "Both programmes were scrutinised separately by grants assessors in the Social Investment Business, who evaluated the applications on their independent merits. Both programmes were also considered by independent experts that make up the Social Action Fund advisory panel, who approved their grant funding".
Third Sector submitted a request under the Freedom of Information Act to see copies of communications relating to the decision to award the foundation two grants.
The OCS refused to release the information, saying to do so "would, or would be likely to, inhibit the free and frank provision of advice and the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation".
It added: "Ministers must have confidence that all those involved in a discussion have not been inhibited by extraneous concerns. These necessarily include the concern that the advice or dialogue may be exposed prematurely to public scrutiny or comment."
Andy Thornton, chief executive of the foundation, said he did not believe his organisation had participated in any errors. He did not wish to comment further.