Earlier today I excitedly broke the news to you, via Civil Society, that the Charity Commission is to scrap regulatory case reports. It’s since been pointed out to me that you need to be a bit of geek to see why this matters, so I will explain simply – and quickly – before you click off somewhere.
Regulatory case reports were the commission’s informal mechanism for dealing with charities that had broken the rules. They were supposed to be cheaper than full on statutory inquiries (which makes a nonsense of the official reason for scrapping them; to save money). And importantly they were supposed to happen under-the-radar. So when journalists contacted the commission to ask about the Atlantic Bridge, the commission denied it was investigating and instead told people that it was merely ‘engaging’ with the charity and providing friendly advice. As time has gone on the commission found this facade impossible to maintain and now reluctantly admits that these are indeed investigations.
But these semantics were one reason why the Atlantic Bridge story has been buried on my blog for two years. Had the commission opened a statutory inquiry in 2009 (as, presumably it would now do), we might have broken this story just a few months before the 2010 general election. Instead Liam Fox and company have enjoyed two years of regulatory advice and guidance, plenty of time a cynic might say, to tidy up the place.
In a further twist, readers of Civil Society will note that the commission revealed that regulatory case reports are to be scrapped to an audience of charity lawyers in response to the question: ‘Can we assume we have seen the back of regulatory investigations, which many of us thought were unlawful anyway?’
Wow. Many charity lawyers believe the mechanism by which the commission investigated Atlantic Bridge was unlawful.
Posts on the Atlantic Bridge are collected here.