Charity Commission directions down by more than half in year to March

The regulator's annual Tackling Abuse and Mismanagement report says the number of directions fell from 154 in 2014/15 to 71 in 2015/16

Charity Commission
Charity Commission

The Charity Commission directed charities to take particular actions less than half as many times in the year to March 2016 as in the previous year.

The commission’s annual Tackling Abuse and Mismanagement report, published last night, reveals that the number of times it issued a direction fell from 154 in 2014/15 to 71 in 2015/16, a fall of 54 per cent.

The commission can issue directions only once a statutory inquiry has been opened. Charities can face legal consequences for ignoring such directions.

Commission transparency data released earlier this month revealed that the number of inquiries opened in 2015/16 fell by 46 per cent compared with the same period the year before.

The amount of charitable funds directly protected by commission regulatory action in 2015/16 also fell, in this case by almost £30m – from £44.6m to £14.9m. A spokeswoman for the Charity Commission said this was related to the size of charities that were subject to regulatory action in the two years.

The transparency data from the beginning of December showed that the number of inquiries into charities earning more than £500,000 a year fell from 20 in 2014/15 to 12 in 2015/16.

The most common cause for concern in statutory inquiry cases opened in 2015/16 was mismanagement and misconduct, which played a part in 23 of the 53 cases. This was followed by concerns about terrorism and extremism, which featured in nine inquiries.

Next came concerns about fraud, trustee benefits, misapplication of funds, and trustee roles and responsibilities, which each featured in five inquiries.

In 2014/15, accounting issues was the main concern, featuring in 63 of the 103 inquiries opened, with misconduct and mismanagement coming second with 57, followed by alleged money laundering, which featured in 12 inquiries.

Concerns about terrorism, radicalisation and extremism featured in eight cases that year.

Most of the 2,117 serious incidents reported to the commission in 2015/16 related to abuse of beneficiaries (1,131); 293 were incidents of theft and 216 were governance issues.

In 2014/15, 1,302 of the 2,129 reported serious incidents were about abuse of vulnerable beneficiaries or beneficiaries at risk, 284 concerned theft and 191 fraud or money laundering.

The commission used its legal powers 1,248 times in 2015/16, an increase of 48 on the previous year. It published 35 inquiry reports, down from 39, and opened 1,327 operational compliance cases, the report says, up from 1,182.

In a video statement embedded in the report, Michelle Russell, director of investigations, monitoring and enforcement at the Charity Commission, told charity trustees: "If there is one message I would like to give you from reading this report, it is about the importance of good governance and how an awareness and understanding of your responsibilities as trustees is absolutely vital."

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