At Work: Law and Governance - Regulation with Rosie

The Charity Commission's Rosie Chapman on getting your accounts in on time.

It's hard to win over hearts and minds, particularly when you're trying to persuade charities about the merits of filing their accounts and returns on time. Last year was the best return rate to deadline ever - 74 per cent - but it's still underwhelming that years of campaigning resulted in less than three-quarters of charities complying with their sole statutory requirement.

'Accountability' and 'transparency' are well-worn words, but getting accounts and returns filed is their most basic demonstration. I do sympathise with small charities that run on sheer volunteer effort and find this an unwelcome chore. We've responded by cutting the amount of information we require from smaller charities and have created File Early, a straightforward guide on our website.

Spotlight on the big boys

We have also put the spotlight on the largest 100 charities, which, with significant resources and expert staff, should be setting the standard.

This isn't about 'naming and shaming' well-known names - it's about the higher standard of accountability we think everyone, from funders to beneficiaries, is right to expect from organisations with a combined stewardship of £9.9bn.

These funds must be accounted for, accurately and on time. Last-minute filing indicates that accountability has a low priority, and late filing that it's not taken seriously. Some charities may have felt unfairly targeted, but, like it or not, there's every reason for the public, the sector as a whole and the commission to expect them to raise their game and get it right. Better and more timely information about services and their providers gives the users power and helps avoid over-regulation.

We've written to the top 100 charities asking them to meet the challenge.

I hope that next year we'll see drastic improvement at all levels of the sector.

- Rosie Chapman is executive director of policy and effectiveness at the commission.

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