The government department was responding to allegations made last week by David Davis, chairman of the Commons public accounts committee who said a change in the law was needed to prevent the commission from acting as both an adviser to charities and their trustee, and policing their activities.
A spokesperson for the commission told Accountancy Age: ‘As long as the law says we must carry out both roles, we shall use the full range of our resources and experience to carry them out as thoroughly and effectively as we can.’
The spokesperson added the commission would make use of its ‘extensive capabilities’ and ‘experience gained through its enabling activities’ to fulfil its responsibilities under the law.
The Guardian reported last week that the Charity Commission was undergoing a National Audit Office inquiry into its alleged failure to act swiftly over a scandal involving the charity, War Child UK.
This followed a Guardian and Channel 4 News investigation which revealed that six celebrity patrons, including opera star Luciano Pavarotti, had quit War Child UK following revelations surrounding its co-founder Bill Leeson.
Trustees of the charity have demanded their money be returned, and a dispute has arisen amongst patrons, trustees and directors as to whether all of the £4m raised so far has gone into the music centre project.
In December 2000, Accountancy Age reported that the Charity Commission, which annually regulates 185,000 registered charities with a combined income of over £24bn, had begun an investigation into 255 charities under its control.
At the time John Stoker, the chief charity commissioner, was quoted as saying: ‘Accountability and transparency are increasingly demanded of charities and it is right that they are also expected of us.’
In 1998 MPs submitted a report to the NAO claiming the Charity Commission had failed to devote enough staff to investigating complaints about maladministration of charity funds, and was too slow and inefficient in its response.
In addition the report found many cases that had been closed by the commission before being fully resolved, and have since been reopened. In the first three months of 1998 only 17% of cases had been rectified.
Despite the commission’s admission that this was an ‘appallingly low’ ratio, Stoker claimed ‘the commission’s involvement was prompt and intensive’.
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