Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100-119)|
WEDNESDAY 28 NOVEMBER 2001
100. One of the targets you failed to hit is
turnaround time for determining charitable status. Your targets
is 95 days, which sounds quite a long time to me anyway, and you
are currently conducting them in 117 days. How do you intend to
meet the 95 day target next year?
(Mr Gillespie) The figures that we have available
to usshall I read them rather than have Mr Stoker struggle
with his eyesight? Our year to date achievement this year is 104
days which is already quite considerably down. Last month in the
month of October we achieved a 97-day turnaround. So you can see
we are putting considerable effort into that and those figures
are coming down quite substantially.
101. I am glad to hear that. Am I right in saying
there is still quite a difference between the performance of different
(Mr Stoker) There is a difference between different
offices as measured by the quality review system we have in place,
102. I am looking at paragraph 3.13 which says
that the Liverpool office took on average 146 days to clear a
case but in London it only took 89 days. That is a huge difference,
is it not?
(Mr Stoker) This is 3.13?
(Mr Stoker) That is correct. The underlying reasons,
we believe, are that basically the figures in Taunton are better
because the experience of the staff was higher and the caseload
was lower, but there again the whole point of the quality review
system, which looks at five per cent of cases on each site each
month, is so that you can analyse the reasons for that and derive
direct management messages from them. What you will get from quality
review, for example of registration cases, is a number of triggers
which are of different kinds. Some of them are about timeliness,
some of them are about an assessment of the technical quality
of the governing documents which have finally been finished, and
some of them will be about record-keeping. There is a direct message
for managers which comes out of that series of comparisons every
month. There are regular cross-site meetings of people who do
the quality review. We put out guidance for staff, staff instructions,
which come directly from experience with this. So we do try and
learn the lessons of this and times are converging.
104. Sorry to interrupt, I will admit the figures
I was quoting you were the figures about the time it took to give
advice and support.
(Mr Stoker) I was talking about the registration ones.
105. There are also big regional differences
in registration. Paragraph 3.5 and paragraph 3.13 point to very
big differences between your offices and the way they handle the
various work that comes before them. Surely it is a management
issue why it takes Liverpool 146 days to clear a case and London
only 89 days?
(Mr Stoker) It is and that is why we have a system
of measuring these things on a monthly basis.
106. You measure them but what do you do about
(Mr Stoker) We have an operational management group
that discusses them monthly and there are bespoke direct management
messages to staff on every site. We distil them into guidance
that goes to operational staff. That is what we do with them.
Mr Osborne: Very sadly my time is up.
107. Mr Stoker, you seem to be throwing some
doubt in answer to Mr Osborne on paragraph 2.12. You do agree
(Mr Stoker) I am sorry?
108. Page 20, paragraph 2.12, they are talking
about the `cup of tea' culture.
(Mr Stoker) I was not objecting to 2.12, Chairman,
what I was saying was that the `cup of tea' gloss which Mr Osborne
put on it gave perhaps the wrong impression. I do not quarrel
at all with 2.12 as an analysis of what the NAO found.
Chairman: Thank you. Barry Gardiner?
109. Mr Stoker, I refer you to paragraph 4.8
and Figure 15 on Page 31 where it says that 38 per cent submit
late or do not make their annual return to the Charity Commission.
It also says that you do not have any capacity to impose fines
under Companies House.
(Mr Stoker) This is on submission of accounts.
110. Would you like to have that power?
(Mr Stoker) I think that there are some quite difficult
issues around that which are essentially issues for ministers.
On the one hand, you have got considerations about increasing
compliance. On the other, you have got considerations about fines
coming out of charitable resources.
111. All the administration of charity comes
out the charitable resources, does it not, and therefore if this
is ensuring more effective and proper administration of the charity,
would that not be a good thing?
(Mr Stoker) That might well be the conclusion ministers
came to if they considered this but I think it is a matter they
would need to consider. They would need to balance these considerations.
It is not for me as a creature of statute to call on that one
I do not think, it really is one for ministers.
112. If you were investigating an irregularity
in a charity, and that charity shuts down, what powers do you
have to stop it shutting down so that you can continue your investigation?
(Mr Stoker) A lot would depend on the circumstances
but if a charity were shutting down while it was under investigation
the one thing I can say is that they would not be able to avoid
that investigation being carried through, and if there were charitable
assets involved, we would be able to pursue them from trustees
whether or not the charity itself remained in existence in those
circumstances I should think. But again, it is difficult to answer
113. I would not have thought it is difficult
at all. It is very clear that the Inland Revenue can say to a
company, "No, you cannot close down until we have concluded
our investigation." My understanding was that you could not
do that, you had to allow them to shut down. I do not want you
to be pushed into an answer that you feel you cannot give. Why
not give us a note on that to say yes or no?
(Mr Stoker) I would be quite happy to give you a note
on that. I think the important thing is we would not allow a charity
to shut down as a way of escaping scrutiny from investigation.
114. If you could give us a note of all charities
that have tried to shut down in the last two years and tell the
Committee in the note how many of them have been successful in
shutting down and how many you have refused to allow to shut down.
(Mr Stoker) I do not know whether we would have that
information, Mr Gardiner, but I will certainly have a look at
what we do have.
115. You would not have that information so
you do not know out of those charities that you have investigated
whether any of them have shut down, whether any of them have sought
to shut down?
(Mr Stoker) We know how many have shut down, it is
whether we know how many sought to shut down, which is difficult
to get a handle on.
116. Is not the way in which they seek to shut
down by notifying you of that?
(Mr Stoker) It might or it might not be.
117. If we can have a clear note on that, it
(Mr Stoker) Okay.
118. Mr Gillespie, you have had a quiet afternoon
so far, can I turn to you. I do not know whether you recall we
had correspondence earlier in the year concerning a charity called
Options Development Agency Limited and you undertook at that stage
that further investigations would be made into this. I have to
say that that was on 15 May this year and I have not received
anything further from you since then, which I did find disappointing.
You will recall that in the documentation which I sent to you
there were a number of points. I had suggested that ODA Ltd had
bid for a gardening project previously run by Kilburn Skills and
funded by Brent and Harrow Health Authority and that there was
a capital bid regarding equipment that ODA had received of £1,110
in February 1998 in respect of the bid and ODA did not supply
the gardening equipment nor make any other expenditure at all
in relation to that bid. Is that something you have pursued with
them in further investigations?
(Mr Gillespie) Can I give a general answer and then
deal with that specifically. We have been in correspondence as
a result of the information you provided us with the council.
We are not satisfied entirely with the information that we have
been provided with. In fact, we have not been provided in certain
instances with key pieces of information. We have threatened,
to pick up an earlier point, use of our powers if we do not receive
it by a particular time. We have not received it yet. If we have
not received it within that time we will serve an order to get
that information. That has been threatened and will be carried
through, if need be. So we are actively pursuing the case.
119. Does that also apply to the project funding
of £5,553 from the health authority and the £2,025 also
obtained from the health authority?
(Mr Gillespie) Again if I can answer the general question
that we are following up the issues that you raised and, if necessary,
we will use our statutory powers.
9 Ev 19, Appendix 1. Back