We do not lack leadership and are addressing our problems, says Charity Commission

William Shawcross, chair of the regulator, reacts to critical report by MPs by saying it is wrong to suggest the commission has no coherent strategy

William Shawcross
William Shawcross

The Charity Commission has rejected criticism from the Public Accounts Committee that it lacks leadership and has said it is making progress in addressing its shortcomings.

A report from the Public Accounts Committee, published today, says that the regulator lacks a coherent strategy, that its leadership has consistently failed to tackle poor performance and ongoing weakness, and that the committee does not have faith that the commission can correct its failings.

But William Shawcross, chair of the Charity Commission, said in a statement that it was wrong to say that the regulator lacked a coherent strategy.

He said the regulator had already started to implement recommendations arising from the highly critical National Audit Office report, published in December, which found that the commission was not regulating charities effectively.

The regulator recognised that it must strengthen its approach to identifying and tackling the most serious abuses, he said, and had asked for new powers to enable it to do this, but he was "confident that we are taking the commission in the right direction".

"We are making rapid, visible progress," said Shawcross. "The figures on new statutory inquiries and the increased use of our powers demonstrates that our new board and senior management team are implementing significant change."

The commission also rejected the suggestion that the regulator lacked strong leadership. "Strong leadership has consistently been delivered by our chair, chief executive and board, and will continue to be so upon the new chief executive taking up position," a statement from the commission said.

The regulator said it accepted and was already implementing many of the recommendations in the PAC report.

It said it had already acknowledged that it was too cautious in tackling suspected abuse and was being more proactive in using its statutory powers and making better use of its data to deal with problem charities.

It said it had opened 48 inquiries in the current financial year, compared with 15 in the whole of 2012/13, and had used its enforcement powers 657 times in statutory inquiries and operational compliance cases so far in 2013/14, compared with 216 for the whole of the previous year.

The commission said that it did not accept that its investigation into to the Cup Trust tax-avoidance case was "feeble", as the PAC report says.

"This was not the finding of the NAO, nor of the charity tribunal, whose judgment in October 2013 reflected the strength of the commission’s investigative processes and procedures," the commission said in a statement.

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