John Low, chief executive of the Charities Aid Foundation, has criticised trustees of major charities for failing to defend the pay awards they make to their chief executives.
Speaking at a CAF event at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, Low said that trustees had been "deafeningly silent" when given the opportunity to defend their own charities in the face of media scrutiny.
Over the summer, the 14 aid charities that make up the Disasters Emergency Committee were highlighted in The Daily Telegraph newspaper for paying their chief executives salaries that were mostly in excess of the Prime Minister's pay of £142,500 a year.
But Low said it had been left to the chief executives of umbrella organisations to make a defence.
"I was surprised that no trustee who set the salaries spoke out," he said. "They were deafeningly silent. There wasn't a single voice. That's wrong.
"We have a system where trustees set the salaries. It's their responsibility. If they set them, they should be willing to defend them.
"But they sat silently when they should have spoken up."
Low also criticised William Shawcross, chair of the Charity Commission, for "choosing to go public with comments critical of the charity sector".
In August, Shawcross told the Telegraph that high salaries risked bringing charities into disrepute.
"In these difficult times, when many charities are experiencing shortfalls, trustees should consider whether very high salaries are really appropriate and fair to both the donors and the taxpayers who fund charities," Shawcross said at the time.