OSCR (The Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator) has formally announced the next steps in its drive to increase accountability among Scottish charities and amend and enhance its monitoring of the sector.
From 1 April 2016, on a rolling basis, the Regulator will be making the accounts of larger charities and Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisations available online. While the accounts of charities that are companies have always been available from Companies House, charities have existing obligations just to furnish a copy of their accounts to anyone who asks for them. The ability for members of the public to download a copy from the Regulator’s website, as is currently possible with the Charity Commission in England and Wales, may help to focus the minds of Scottish trustees more on transparency.
Another outcome of the public consultation which started in 2014, and which the Charities team at Chiene + Tait took part in, was to make changes to the information gathered as part of the Annual Return process. OSCR aims to increase its risk based approach to seeking information on the sector by developing a more flexible process to allow it to be better informed, while at the same time tailoring returns to mitigate the administrative burden for smaller charities. In addition, the Regulator has promised to publish more guidance and support for charities, something which is always welcome.
The original proposals to introduce a system for reporting serious events involving charities that will cover matters such as fraud, abuse allegations, investigations by other regulatory or official bodies, and large unverified donations, will also come into play. This “notifiable events” procedure is similar to existing systems that apply to Housing Associations and Pension Schemes, and of course a system of “serious incident” reporting that operates under the Charity Commission in England and Wales.
The other main change proposed in the consultation exercise related to the establishment of a central database of trustees’ details for internal use by the Regulator. The February 2016 announcement by OSCR has not mentioned this, but we look forward to developments in due course.