Trustees are too laissez-faire in their management of charities, Dame Suzi Leather, chair of the Charity Commission, told an audience of charity leaders yesterday.
Speaking at the Leading Your Charity Through a Time of Change conference in London, Leather said commission research on consortia that will be published shortly revealed many charities were forming them without trustees being involved in the decisions at all.
"It's hard to imagine how trustees can properly fulfil their duties if they aren't party to those decisions," she said.
Leather said recent research that showed almost 90 per cent of trustees were not reporting their public benefit properly suggested trustees were "taking a laissez-faire attitude" to their responsibilities.
She said trustees needed to take ownership of their responsibilities and do more to hold their executives to account.
Leather said charities should give the public more information about their administration costs.
She said her recently proposed "good enough" index of charity administration costs had met with a mixed response in a recent poll of Third Sector readers, but the issue remained an important one.
"The public will never understand why charities have overheads unless trustees themselves have the courage to talk about them," Leather said.
"To the unpersuaded I say this: charities receive public money and money from the public, and therefore they have a duty to explain what they do with that money."