Commission will be tough on wrongdoing but ‘more benign’ about mistakes, new chair promises

Orlando Fraser
Orlando Fraser

The Charity Commission will be tough on intentional wrongdoers but “more benign” with charities that make honest mistakes, the regulator’s new chair has promised.

Orlando Fraser, who was making his first public speech since beginning his three-year term as chair of the commission at the end of last month, was speaking at a trustee conference in London today.

He said he wanted the regulator’s work to be informed by three key values: fairness, balance and independence.

Fraser said the commission would look to strike the right balance “between a number of competing factors and, over time, between being robust and being benign”.

He said: “You can expect therefore expect that the commission will deal commensurately, and, if needed, severely, with the intentional wrongdoers, the fraudsters, the extremists, the aggressors and the grossly negligent – all of whom, in their own way, are poisoning charitable status for everyone else.

“But equally, there are other occasions when problems are innocent or not material, when we have to remember that we are mostly dealing with volunteers trying overall to do great things, and we can be more benign.

“After all, the commission is not regulating a for-profit sector, but a sector which is by and large a place where wonderful loving things are being done every day, and where honest mistakes can happen in the process.”

He said that no matter how successful the charitable endeavour, “we all know that the best-laid plans of mice and men go astray sometimes”.

“So, rather than criticise an otherwise successful charity excessively for honest and reasonable mistakes, I will be keen for the commission to focus on supporting trustees in getting it right when things dont go exactly to plan – as they often don’t,” Fraser said.

“So, there will be occasions when the commission will be very robust, but equally you will see a supportive side to us – it is a question of achieving the right overall balance over time between challenge and encouragement, and it is something to which I want the commission to pay attention.”

Fraser also said the commission must continue to improve its online guidance, ensuring it was easy to find and straightforward to follow.

He said the regulator must keep working to ensure its online services were intuitive and efficient “and not a source of unnecessary frustration and delay”.

In addition, Fraser said: “We must be available and responsive when trustees get in touch for advice and guidance.

“By offering guidance and services that are accessible, feel smooth and that respond to the needs of the time, the commission can do its bit to ease pressures on busy trustees.”

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