Charity Commission gets a bashing…but is it justified?

The Chief Commissioner and Chief Executive got a verbal bashing from the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee over the much-publicised Cup Trust scandal. William Shawcross and Sam Younger were grilled for over an hour on what went wrong at the Commission, firstly in registering the Cup Trust and secondly, when they became aware of concerns, they appeared to do little about it. But is the Commission really to blame for registering the Trust?

The Commission receives around 7000 applications from organisations registering a charity every year, some of which, inevitably, are going to be bogus, fraudulent or set up as a tax scam.

So, should the Commission be able to stop all these being registered? Well, the answer is yes… and no! The Commission’s own published Risk Framework, highlights where they expend their reduced resources. But the sheer volume of applications being processed inevitably mean that some applicants will tell the Registration Division what they want to hear to allow a registered number being granted, without being rigorously grilled over their intentions.

Clearly, some warning signs were missed with the Cup Trust however, unless the Commission interviews all applicants and trustees under caution, then it is impossible to stop all determined wrong doers abusing the trust of the British public.

Also, at the point an organisation does actually register as a charity it is often the case that it hasn’t actually operated for very long, if at all, so the fraudulent activities would not have taken place and therefore not been evident for the Commission to identify. Furthermore, crooks are not known for volunteering their guilt to the authorities.

Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee grillings are always entertaining, but do they not see the irony in criticising others for the failure to act when their fellow MPs have repeatedly abused the expenses system for so long?

You can read the full grilling here and the Commission’s published risk Framework here.

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