The board of a charity providing support to ex-service personnel "lacked the appropriate skills, experience and collective approach" needed to manage an organisation of its size since its inception, according to the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator.
The regulator’s inquiry report into the Mark Wright Project, which received charitable status in 2009 and provides services including advice and counselling for veterans, found that the lack of a strong group of directors compounded a situation where one director, who acknowledged a lack of skills, appeared to have disproportionate control over the running of the charity.
The report, published yesterday, says that the directors failed to address concerns about the lack of professionalism in his engagement with some clients. "We consider that the board collectively failed in their duties as charity trustees in these respects, causing a group of clients to lose confidence in the centre and to seek alternative support," it says.
The charity was established in memory of Corporal Mark Wright, who died on active duty in Afghanistan in 2006. It operates a drop-in centre in Dalkeith, Midlothian, and recorded an income of £230,810 in the accounting period to 31 March 2011. The charity had 198 clients in September 2011, the month when the inquiry opened.
Following a series of complaints between September and November 2011, the regulator conducted inquiries into allegations that the charity’s trustees were seriously failing in their duty of care towards staff and potentially vulnerable service users, that the trustees were failing to work collectively in the best interests of the charity and were not addressing complaints about the alleged intimidating behaviour of one of the directors, Robert Wright, Mark’s father. It also looked at allegations that the charity was not operating according to its governing document, in this case the memorandum and articles of association.
The OSCR set out interim findings and recommendations between March and May 2012 in order to highlight issues that needed to be addressed urgently. These included recruitment to the board.
The report acknowledges the recent work undertaken to strengthen the charity and commends the individuals who have joined the board. Following the progress made against its interim action plan, the OSCR has made a further eight recommendations and will monitor the charity’s progress against these.
These recommendations include that the charity strengthens its board and puts in a place a new chair "and critically examines the continuing involvement of Robert Wright".In a statement, the Mark Wright Project said its directors "acknowledge the report’s findings as largely accurate" and recognised their need to learn from the experiences of the past 18 months. "Many of the report’s recommendations have already been actioned, with the remainder due to take effect in the coming quarter, with ongoing monitoring of standards throughout the charities activities being a key component of strategy," it said.