The National Audit Office has opened an investigation into the government’s support of charities during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The spending watchdog said it would examine how the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport has distributed the £750m in emergency funding provided to help the sector through the coronavirus crisis.
The government faced heavy criticism for the length of time it took before a support package for the sector was announced, and then for how long it was before charities could apply for the funding.
The government announced on 8 April that it would provide £750m to support frontline charities through the pandemic.
On 20 May the DCMS said it was working across government to direct funds to voluntary sector organisations and “stressed the urgency to distribute funds quickly and prioritise those charities most in need”, the NAO said.
The National Lottery Community Fund began accepting applications for the first £200m of the £310m it had been allocated on 22 May.
The NAO’s report, which is due to be published in the spring, will examine the DCMS’ objectives for the emergency funding, and how the department has distributed the money and worked with other government departments and public bodies to do so.
Debra Allcock Tyler, chief executive of the publishing and training charity the Director of Social Change, which was highly critical of the length of time it took for the government to make emergency funding available to the sector, said she looked forward to seeing what would emerge in the final report.
She said there had been a lack of transparency and scrutiny of decision-making around the whole process for releasing the funds.
“It’s part of a wider piece of work the NAO is doing about the government’s response generally, but we’re very pleased that our sector has got its attention and is felt to be worthy of the work,” she said.
“Any investigation should highlight what the government has done well, as well as what it hasn’t.”