The Charity Commission will take stronger action against charities that fail to file their accounts on time, according to Sam Younger, the regulator’s chief executive.
Speaking at a Westminster Social Policy Forum on charity law and regulation in London today, Younger said the commission would be "dramatically stepping up" the action it takes against charities that fail to file their accounts on time.
His comments follow the government’s response to reports from the Public Administration Select Committee and Lord Hodgson, which approved plans to allow the commission to fine charities that failed to file accounts on time.
Younger said the commission would be taking more action to identify and deal with incidences of abuse and trustee dishonesty in charities, after criticism over the way it had dealt with particular cases, although he did not mention any specific organisations.
The regulator has come under fire this year for its handling of the tax-avoidance vehicle the Cup Trust, which raised £176m in private donations but spent only £55,000 on charitable activities in two years.
Younger said: "Our experience tells us that defaulting on accounts is often associated with mismanagement and dishonesty."
He said the use of a red banner to highlight late-filing charities on the register had gone some way to reducing the problem. "But I’m not convinced we’ve done enough so far to deal with trustees who persistently file late," he said. "Those who are wilfully negligent or worse may have something to hide. So we are stepping up our approach to those cases.
Younger called on the public and donors not to give to charities that had failed to file on time. "My message to the public and corporate and government donors is: don’t give to charities that have not filed their accounts with us," he said.
He also called for the commission to be given the power to disqualify trustees it suspected of wrongdoing. "A power to disqualify trustees is essential, we believe, for us to be a modern, effective regulator," Younger said.
When it carries out investigations into charities, Younger said the commission would no longer always give trustees the "benefit of the doubt", allowing them to resolve issues on their own. "We will be getting tougher with charities, particularly once they are under investigation and tightening up on these points," he said.