National Audit Office criticisms are unjustified, says regulator

Charity Commission chief executive Sam Younger agrees, however, that it should improve its approach to the most serious cases of abuse

Sam Younger
Sam Younger

The National Audit Office’s conclusions that the Charity Commission is not an effective regulator and does not provide value for money are unjustified, the regulator has said.

The spending watchdog’s report on the commission, published today, says the regulator makes little use of its statutory enforcement powers, can be slow to act when investigating regulatory concerns and does not take tough enough action in some of the most serious cases.

But a statement from the commission, released today, said that although the regulator accepted many of the recommendations and had already begun work on addressing some of its shortfalls, it rejected the conclusion that it did not offer value for money.

The commission said that the NAO did not review many areas of the commission’s core responsibilities, such as holding charities to account through its register or the guidance it provides, which the regulator said was essential for preventing abuse and improving public trust and confidence in charities.

"We do not therefore believe the NAO’s conclusions on the effectiveness of our regulation and value for money as a whole are justified by the evidence," the statement said.

The commission said it had already stepped up its serious case work and had opened 26 statutory inquiries in the first six months of 2013/14, compared with 15 in the 12 months to the end of March this year.

It had also changed its approach to gathering information during statutory inquiries and used its powers to instruct charities to provide information rather than initially asking for the voluntary release of information.

The regulator said it had also agreed a new memorandum of understanding with HM Revenue & Customs that updated its existing information exchange protocols and "makes a renewed commitment to ensuring necessary safeguards are in place that allow effective investigation and the exchange of information".

Sam Younger, chief executive of the Charity Commission, said he agreed that the commission should improve its approach to handling the most serious cases involving deliberate abuse or mismanagement of a charity and make better use of its own data to carry out more proactive work.

"The Charity Commission has complex tasks – as registrar, enabler and tackler of abuse in a large, diverse and almost entirely voluntary sector," he said. "The challenge before us is to identify which areas of activity should be reduced further to free up the extra resources to meet the NAO’s recommendations on registrations and investigations."

Younger said he would also welcome a wider debate about the implications of the report for the commission’s priorities and approach.

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