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Charity watchdog 'unfit' for purpose.

Byline: David Williamson Political Editor david.williamson@walesonline.co.uk

LEADING Welsh MPs will launch a full-throttle attack on the Charity Commission today when a scathing report is published.

Aberconwy Conservative MP Guto Bebb and Blaenau Gwent Labour MP Nick Smith are among the members of the public accounts committee "dismayed" that the commission is still "failing to regulate charities effectively".

A second report flags up concerns about HMRC's monitoring of the gift aid system, warning of "scope for individuals and companies to try to exploit loopholes".

Committee chair Margaret Hodge said: "We know this abuse has lost tax revenue - an estimated PS170m in 2012-13. At the same time, the cost to the taxpayer of gift aid has increased, to PS2bn in 2012-13, only half of which is going to charities themselves."

She described the commission as "feeble" and "not fit for purpose".

Aberconwy's Mr Bebb said members of the committee were "staggered" by the priorities of the commission which has a budget of PS22.7m and is charged with regulating the PS60bn sector.

He said: "It doesn't have a strategy to do the work it's supposed to do on behalf of taxpayers... Basically, this very large sector of the economy seems to be unregulated and seems to be open to the possibility of tax avoidance."

Blaenau Gwent's Mr Smith said: "It is despicable to think anyone can and would abuse charity donations for personal gain. We need confi-dence a system designed to help those who need it most is watertight and protected from abuse.

"If the Charity Commission isn't doing its job, the whole system falls down. This abuse of Gift Aid is deeply unnerving and punishes the taxpayer.

The commission needs to get a grip on matters and fast."

The report found the commission had "no coherent strategy for delivering clearly defined priorities within its broad remit", that it has "not regulated the charity sector effectively", and that it is "too willing to accept what charities tell it".

The MPs state: "In the last three years, the Commission has not removed any trustees, it has only suspended a trustee twice and it has only restricted charities from entering into specific transactions 17 times when it is responsible for overseeing 165,000 charities."

They claim the commision's leadership has "consistently failed to tackle poor performance and ongoing weaknesses in the organisation" and it "remains weakest in identifying deliberate wrongdoing by charities and in taking effective action". They conclude they have "little confidence in the Commission's ability to put right its problems and failings".

William Shawcross, chairman of the Charity Commission, said: "I completely reject the suggestion that the commission lacks a coherent strategy.

"We have already begun to implement the recommendations of the National Audit Office.

"We are making rapid, visible progress... I am confident that we are taking the commission in the right direction."

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Welsh MPs have attacked the Charity Commission for 'failing to regulate > charities effectively' Dale Martin
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Feb 5, 2014
Words:493
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