'The time was right for a debate'

John Tate, the IT specialist who started the voluntary sector expenses debate on his blog, admits he is surprised by the scale of the reaction

A fortnight ago, John Tate challenged NCVO chief executive Stuart Etherington to reveal his expenses. Etherington "took the bait", as Tate puts it, and since then the expenses of a host of other voluntary sector leaders have come to light.

"I wasn't on a crusade to get everyone to show their expenses," says Tate. "My main objective was to get a dialogue going. I'm surprised by the speed and breadth of what I've kicked off."

Nevertheless Tate, who has been involved in the sector for two decades as a consultant, trustee and chair, welcomes the revelations.

He says he has believed for years that some voluntary sector leaders who are "wined and dined by the great and the good" have been too secretive about how they spend donors' money. He claims in his blog that some finance directors have been fired for confronting their bosses about excessive expenses. "I have long felt that if this information was in the public domain something would be done about it," he says.

The row about MPs' expenses provided the perfect opportunity for him to raise the issue. "It was blindingly obvious the time was right," he says.

So how far should this transparency go? As well as all representative bodies, Tate thinks charities that receive at least 25 per cent of their funding from the public purse should reveal all. "If we are giving them one in four pounds, it's something they should do," he says.

Tate, who lectures at Cass Business School and advises the Charity Finance Directors' Group on IT, says the episode shows the power of the blog.

"Once it gets traction, people can't ignore it," he says. "But you have to find ways to engage people quickly, so I would like to thank Stuart for raising my blog's profile. He probably got the whole thing off the ground."

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