Charity manager speaks out about 'corrosive' complaints

The manager of an Edinburgh-based charity has spoken of the "wearing and corrosive" effects of a year of anonymous complaints against her organisation to its main funder and the Scottish charity regulator.

Elizabeth Maginnis said staff of the Pilton Equalities Project had “grown weary with the constant scrutiny and hassle” caused by complaints about the charity’s management practices and information handling.

The allegations were first made last Christmas after the resignation of an employee from an organisation that the project, a support charity for older people, had merged with. An anonymous complainant contacted Edinburgh City Council, which provides more than half of the charity’s income, and the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator.

The OSCR and the council dismissed the claims earlier this year, but the complaints were recently resubmitted anonymously to both bodies. Maginnis, who is also an elected member of the council, said the allegations had also resurfaced in May when they were passed on to a candidate opposing her in council elections.

Maginnis said she thought the matter would come to an end when the first round of complaints was dismissed. “It was a trying time for us all but, after going through our paperwork with a fine toothcomb, they both came back within six weeks and said they had completely exonerated us,” she said. “We hoped that would be an end of it”.

She admitted she was worried about the possible impact of the complaints on the charity’s funding, which currently stands at just over £500,000 a year. “People keep dreaming up fresh stuff and we have had to bat back allegation after allegation,” Maginnis said.

She pointed out that the charity’s latest evaluation report showed a record 23 per cent growth in the number of people it helped. “It is a testament to the staff that the wearing and corrosive effects of all this have not stopped them doing a good job,” she said.

The complainants claimed on a website, again anonymously, that their second submission to the OSCR and Edinburgh City Council contained “irrefutable documentary evidence” that their allegations have substance, but an OSCR spokesman said the information the regulator had received gave it “no cause to reopen our inquiry into the charity”. The council was unable to confirm it had received a second complaint.

The charity’s legal advisers have said that the organisation can do nothing to silence the charity’s detractors as long as they remain anonymous.

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