Debra Morris


One of the most important aspects of modern governance of any organisation, whether a charity, a commercial entity or a governmental department is the emphasis on greater openness and accountability. This is partly a response to a breakdown of trust in government processes, which is evident, for example, in the intense media scrutiny of the decision to go to war with Iraq. It is also a response to the breakdown in trust in commercial governance and professional self-regulation, as demonstrated, for example, by the collapses of Enron in the USA and what might yet be regarded as its European counterpart, Parmalat.

The fact that many charities receive public subsidies in one form or another (from government funding, to funds raised from the public, through to reliance on volunteers) makes it all the more important that they operate in a transparent manner. This Article will consider recent attempts in England and Wales to improve accountability within the charitable sector.

In May 2003, a draft Charities Bill was published taking forward the long-awaited review of charity law. The draft bill, which will "modernise charity law and better enable charities to prosper" contains a series of measures outlined by the British government in July 2003. This was in response to the consultation document from the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit, published in September 2002, in which wide-ranging changes in the law and regulation of the charitable and wider not-for-profit sector were proposed.

This Article will focus on two of the main aims of the proposed reforms: developing greater accountability and transparency to build trust in the sector; and, maintaining that trust by independent, open, and proportionate regulation.

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