Capacitybuilders 'wasted public money' on accountancy skills programme

Financial training organisation Cash says infrastructure body shelved its scheme for small charities

An organisation that provides financial training for small charities has said that its attempts to improve voluntary sector accountancy skills have been "a waste of our time and public money".

Community Accountancy Self-Help
was awarded £50,000 in 2006 to carry out research with Sheffield Hallam University into the accountancy needs of small charities in England.

The research, which was funded by non-departmental public body Capacitybuilders, identified a huge shortfall in skills and led to Cash being commissioned to conduct further research on what could be done to improve matters.

It developed a kit that enabled charities to improve their accountancy skills and a quality assurance system to embed improvements across organisations.

Tom Fitch, chief executive of Cash, said no further work on rolling out the initiatives had since taken place.

"The expenditure to date by Capacitybuilders has been pretty pointless because the work has been shelved," said Fitch, in a letter to the Public Accounts Committee, a committee of 15 MPs that has been investigating the Government's attempts to strengthen the voluntary sector's infrastructure since 2004.

His comments were included in the PAC report Building the Capacity of the Third Sector, which was published last week. The report said those responsible for the two Government-led infrastructure programmes Capacitybuilders and Futurebuilders had "failed to follow even basic good practice" and had not yet demonstrated value for money.

Speaking to Third Sector this week, Fitch said: "I feel that we have wasted our time and quite a bit of public money. We proved the need for community accountants, we did the quality assurance – then it all stopped. There has been no continuity of knowledge."

Capacitybuilders funded Cash's research through the Finance Hub, one of six national hubs of expertise set up to increase the sector's capacity. The hub closed last year.

A statement from Capacitybuilders said it was not responsible for research commissioned by the hubs, which it inherited in 2006.

It said it had "provided funding to support the establishment of a number of community accountancy initiatives in the past. However, we have limited available funds, and do not provide ongoing core funding for the provision of specific services at a local level."

It added that Capacitybuilders would be publishing research over the coming months on learning from capacity-building experiences in other sectors and countries.

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