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UK charity regulator issues RSPCA a warning over governance issues

The Charity Commission has issued the RSPCA with an official warning after it found significant governance and finance issues

The UK charity regulator has issued the RSPCA with an official warning after finding it had breached serious governance and finance regulations.

In May, it was reported that the RSPCA’s former interim Chief Executive was given a payout from the charity in excess of AU$261,000. The Commission’s warning is critical of the trustees for not ensuring the decision was made properly, given the large sum.

Deputy Chief Executive of the Charity Commission, David Holdsworth, said the public and the many of RSPCA’s members and supporters expected that the organisation should be run by its trustees to the highest standards.

“Unfortunately, that has not been the case and the charity’s governance has fallen short which has led to people asking legitimate questions about the payout to the former executive,” Holdsworth added.

The UK not-for-profit regulatory sector launched the investigation after it was reported that the interim Chief Executive, Michael Ward, had received a significant sum after claiming that he was rejected for the permanent role because of his age.

“Issuing an Official Warning signals to the trustees that we expect them to resolve this important issue and take immediate steps to improve the charity’s governance.”

The Commission found that trustees failed to act with reasonable care and skill in the negotiations with the former executive and concluded that these failings amounted to mismanagement in the administration of the charity.

It added that the level of its engagement has been concerning considering the size of the charity and its importance. The RSPCA has seen unusually high turnover among its Chief Executives and significant periods of time without a Chief Executive in post.

The Commission raised concerns last year over its governance when Jeremy Cooper quit suddenly after a year as an executive. It said: “It is important that its governance is brought up to standard that the public would expect.”

“Good governance in charities is not an optional extra, or a bureaucratic detail. Good governance is what underpins the delivery of a charity’s purposes to the high standards expected by the public,” Holdsworth said.

“Charities that operate with their purpose at the core of what they all do, and underpin this with robust governance and the highest standard of conduct will service their beneficiaries better. Conversely, where we find weak governance, we are most likely to find a charity that is failing to meet its charitable potential.”

A spokesperson from the RSPCA council said: “The RSPCA ruling council is fully committed to the very highest standards of governance. Council continues to implement the recommendations of the governance review, with more than 90 per cent of them completed, and is working hard with our new Chief Executive on the outstanding items.”

Holdsworth added that with the recent election of a new council, the introduction of a new code of conduct and the recruitment of a new Chief Executive provided an opportunity for a fresh start for the charity, but warned further action could follow.

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