The Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) yesterday released a consultation on its "Targeted Regulation" programme, containing four key propositions aiming to increase transparency and reinforce public confidence in charities:

  • A requirement to publish charity accounts on the Scottish Charity Register: OSCR wishes to ensure greater transparency. It is envisaged that OSCR would start with SCIO accounts and "black out" the name of Trustees as an interim measure (whilst Data Protection considerations are worked through);
  • Creation of a charity trustee database: OSCR would intend to use the information internally at the outset but ultimately move towards publishing the names of all trustees detailed on the database;
  • Creation of a "Serious Incident Reporting" regime: OSCR proposes a regime, similar to that in England and Wales, whereby a charity must report certain forms of incident. OSCR considers such a regime would allow for proactive inquiry, provide a chance to identify where guidance is required and ultimately prevent charities from getting into serious difficulties;
  • Changes to annual reporting: OSCR proposes revisals to Annual Returns (alongside removal of Supplementary Monitoring Returns) with changes to the detail sought. OSCR proposes a targeted and proportionate regime under which greater detail is required from larger charities.

OSCR's consultation period runs for twelve weeks to 24 October 2014.  Responses are invited from charities, advisers and the public. Information on the consultation and how to respond can be found here.

Comment

Publishing accounts would move towards current practice of the Charity Commission in England and Wales.

A Trustee database would (if ultimately publicly available) not be that different to publicly available company director information.

The annual reporting changes do, as a whole, appear to be broadly in line with OSCR's aspiration of achieving "targeted and proportionate regulation" (the proposed questions are set out in detail from page 19 of the consultation).

The proposal most likely to be loved by some and loathed by others could be that covering "Serious Incident Reporting". On the one hand it may be viewed as a potentially useful "pre-emptive" regulatory tool provided it can be effectively and efficiently resourced with a precise scope. On the other, it may draw a spread of responses around the current list of deemed "Serious Incidents" (listed on page 17). Whilst some, such as " [substantial] fraud and theft" or "known terrorist links", may be fairly obvious, there does seem room for concern around obligations to inform OSCR of "Serious Incidents" that might take the form of, for example: "[petty] theft" (that has been dealt with), "alleged terrorist links or unlawful activity" (spuriously alleged by someone), having no set "procedure for Trustee Vetting" and "being investigated" [with no finding] by another regulator.