OSCR proposes to publish annual accounts of Scottish charities on its website

In its annual report, the regulator says it has asked the Scottish government to consider a change in the law to allow this to happen

Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator
Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator

The Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator has proposed that the annual accounts of all Scottish charities should be published on the regulator’s website.

Unlike the Charity Commission, the OSCR does not make accounts submitted to it available online, but individual charities are legally obliged to provide their latest accounts to the public on request.

The OSCR annual report, published this week, says that although putting these documents online would be problematic, it has asked the Scottish government to consider a change in the law to enable it to happen.

One problem could be the fact that the move would involve publishing names and signatures online, thus possibly falling foul of data protection laws, the annual report says.

"It is our view that the best long-term solution would be a change in law," it says.

David Robb, chief executive of the OSCR, said in a statement that he was not certain when it might be possible to push through such a change in the law. "We haven’t yet specified a timescale, but we will be consulting in the next few weeks on our targeted regulation programme, which includes the publication of charity accounts on the register," he said.

"We believe that publishing accounts is important in promoting the transparency and accountability of charities, and allowing the public greater access to information on how charities spend their money and the activities they carry out."

The OSCR annual report does, however, list four other issues that it has previously taken to ministers – including the removal of unresponsive charities from the register, its power to recover and protect charitable assets and other technical legal matters – that have still not been resolved.

The annual report also notes a threefold rise in the number of applications for charity reorganisation schemes, from 141 in the year to 31 March 2013 to 422 last year. Reorganisations allow charities to modernise their legal objectives or release restricted funds, enabling them to make use of difficult-to-access funds.

"The increase in reorganisation applications was primarily because local authorities have been seeking to significantly reduce the number of charitable trusts they administer in order to minimise audit fees," the report says. It says the applications it was asked to consider were increasingly more complex than in previous years.

Other information in the report includes the rapid rise in the number of applications for registration as Scottish charitable incorporated organisations, a slight fall in staff numbers to 50 from 53.5 full-time equivalents last year, and a £67,000 rise in its expenditure against the previous year, reaching just under £2.9m.

It says that the regulator will launch a redesigned website with improved functionality. A spokesman said this would happen next month.

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