Commission to publish wider range of investigation reports

The Charity Commission has decided to start publishing information about investigations that do not justify formal inquiry reports but are on subjects of public interest or contain lessons for other charities.

Opening doors: commission will make more information available
Opening doors: commission will make more information available

Many of the new 'regulatory case reports' will cover cases that would have been the subject of formal inquiries before the commission's 2005 decision to open fewer, more focused inquiries. The number of inquiry reports has fallen from 79 in 2005 to 39 last year.

The decision has been welcomed by commission observers, who said the reports could reassure trustees that the commission was acting proportionately and thus improve transparency and public confidence.

A commission spokesman said: "It's not that we haven't made information available if asked, but we have recognised that in some cases it would be better for all concerned if we made it publicly available."

Rosamund McCarthy, a partner at law firm Bates Wells & Braithwaite, said links to the reports should be included in general guidance documents.

She said the reports would reassure trustees that the regulator was not bound to come down like a ton of bricks when things went wrong. "If they can see what remedial action the commission has suggested, charities are more likely to put their own house in order," she said.

Ben Wittenberg, director of policy and research at the Directory of Social Change, welcomed the reports but warned the commission to be wary of disclosing commercially sensitive information in an era of increasing competition with other sectors for public service contracts.

Linda Laurance, a governance consultant, said the reports were "a helpful step in the interests of transparency and public confidence in the sector", and would help trustees "struggling to understand increasingly complex regulation".

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