Examination of Witnesses (Questions 140-159)|
WEDNESDAY 28 NOVEMBER 2001
140. In paragraph 11 of our report from four
years ago it says that the Commission had 600 staff and £13
million. How is it that you have got 53 staff fewer while you
have got £8 million more?
(Mr Stoker) 13 million?
141. I read paragraph 11 of this Report, which
you say you have read as saying that the Commission spent £13
million on staff in 1995-96. Am I not comparing like with like?
Is the £21 million not just staff costs?
(Mr Stoker) No, the £13 million is presumably
the staff costs within the total budget of £21 million.
142. What is your staff cost now?
(Mr Stoker) I would have to get that figure for you.
143. If you could do a note on that, what I
am looking for is the comparable figure to paragraph 11 of this
(Mr Stoker) The £13 million.
144. Yes exactly, so I can understand
. (Mr Stoker) It is still £13 million.
145. So you have lost 50 staff and that is basically
because you could not keep up with competitive pay rates is it,
(Mr Stoker) The effect of having a level budget over
a period of six years is a real terms cut of 11 per cent. What
that means you have to do to keep operating and to carry on giving
your staff pay increases is you have to find continuous savings.
(Mr Stoker) Yes and staff are among the most expensive
items that we have.
147. I wanted to ask you about the Liverpool
office Mr Osborne raised the question of paragraph 3.13, the question
of this difference between Liverpool and London and the backlog
of cases where advice or support was sought, 146 days in Liverpool
and 89 days in London. Paragraph 3.14 goes on to say that the
London office was 13 per cent under-staffed. I take it that the
Liverpool staff office was not under-staffed?
(Mr Stoker) No
148. So that highlights even more the difference
between the Liverpool and London offices. The London office under-staffed
managed to considerably out-perform the Liverpool office with
its full complement, that is right, is it not?
(Mr Gillespie) Can I just clarify some issues here,
the first of which is that the figures are based on the average
case duration and the Liverpool office was dealing with some considerable
backlogs for a number of historical reasons which I think it is
true to say management were not happy with. We have got a situation
now on the year to date figures where the Liverpool office is
clearing cases in an average of 114 days as those backlogs are
reduced, compared to 99 days.
149. But it is still not performing as efficiently
as the London office?
(Mr Gillespie) They are clearing a lot of cases but
they are having to deal with backlogs and that is reflected in
the average figure.
150. I must press on, I have not got much time.
If there is anything further you want to add perhaps you could
add it in a note. I would like to ask a general question. Am I
right in thinking, Mr Stoker, that charitable giving is declining?
(Mr Stoker) The latest figures I believe from NCVO
show that the trend recently is slightly up but they are declining
from historic levels.
151. I have got some figures from the Charitable
Aid Foundation which are not completely up-to-date, 1997-98 compared
with 1998-99, of the amount fundraising charities raised from
fundraising, as opposed to shops etcetera, a total of £263
million down to £207 million, which is a 23 per cent decline.
Do you think there is a relationship between declining confidence
among the public in their giving and the declining amount that
is given, because the Performance and Innovation Unit has raised
this question and says there does need to be an input and they
said there is a growing public demand for openness and accountability.
Since many voluntary organisations are getting money from the
taxpayer and even more importantly from the point of view of this
Committee that is the case, is there a relationship between the
lack of transparency and accountability and openness and public
confidence and the diminution in giving?
(Mr Stoker) The factors which affect trends in giving
are very, very many and complicated so I would not care to guess,
and it would be a guess, at any direct relationship between those
two. What I would say is whatever way you look at it, whether
or not there is a direct correlation between those figures, it
is very important that we do all we can.
152. There is not a direct correlation?
(Mr Stoker) I did not say there was not.
153. I did not catch the last bit you said.
You said that you thought there was not a correlation.
(Mr Stoker) I did not say that at all. Shall I start
154. Start again briefly.
(Mr Stoker) It is too complicated to say what is determining
trends in giving but, whichever way you look at it, confidence
in charities is important to donor confidence.
Chairman: Thank you very much for that. That
sums it up quite well. May we now move into private session to
discuss case two. Will all members of the press and public leave
the room and also any officials not directly concerned with this
inquiry. Thank you very much for your presence.
The Committee continued to take evidence,
155. Mr Stoker, case 2 makes some pretty sorry
reading. The case ran for nearly three years, no contact was made
with beneficiaries, the Commission relied almost exclusively on
the word of the chief executive. What was this charity and what
was going on?
(Mr Stoker) It was a charity called the ******. It
was a regionally based outfit as described in the background note
here. It was operating on its fundraising in a way which, as you
see from the case, was far from satisfactory. Basically the first
time round, I regret to say, we failed to crack it. What we have
done since is go back, as we said we would, to review this case
as a result of the work that the NAO did on it, and what we found
was that there were further problems. Some of them were about
governance and standards of administration, some of them were
about high fundraising costs relative to expenditure, some of
them were about the financial position of the charity as a whole,
and there were one or two other issues as well about remuneration
matters. So there is now an inquiry open on this case and I can
give you my commitment that we will do a better job on it this
time than we did last time.
156. Was it fraud or was it just that the people
that run this charity were running it for their own benefit? What
was actually going on?
(Mr Stoker) ******
157. Was somebody at street level trying to
fiddle something or not?
(Mr Stoker) ******
Chairman: Do any colleagues want to ask further
questions on this?
158. I just think that there is no evidence
that you are managing your investigatory officers in an appropriate
way and this is a case where they seem to have conducted it in
a haphazard and basically slack way. You have been to told to
expand substantially your investigatory division, you have been
given an extra £1 million. What steps are you taking? Are
you going to recruit internally? How are you going to get the
management to respond to the kind of things which you want them
to do and which the Committee wants them to do?. I have no confidence
that you are managing. That is probably a statement rather than
(Mr Stoker) I am sorry to hear you make it. I will
ask Simon Gillespie to answer the question about recruitment in
a moment. What we are doing about the management is what I have
described before, the resources which you quite rightly mention
are part of the mixture, the review of the procedures that we
put in place, the fact that we have got new structured instructions
to investigative officers, backed up by training, backed up by
a project team to do the embedding of the new arrangements and
analyse what is happening behind the introduction of the new arrangements,
a greater public spotlight on issues in this field through publishing
reports on the web site. I am sorry if you do not have confidence
in that. All I can tell you is that we are determined through
the avenues that I have mentioned to make a real impact on the
quality and consistency of investigation work. I will ask Mr Gillespie
to answer on the training point.
(Mr Gillespie) There is one other thing that may be
helpful here. Both case 1 and case 2 were pre the significant
internal review that we conducted of our investigative procedures.
All the items Mr Stoker mentioned have been put in place since
the completion of case 2. To be frank, this case does make sorry
reading and it was a case study in how not to do one and we have
learned very much from it, which I think is reflected in our results
both towards the end of the last financial year and also in the
current year. As far as recruitment is concerned, we are moving
ahead to recruit, we have advertised in the last couple of weeks
for new staff, predominantly for the review visits teams who form
part of the regulatory arm, but also for new inquiry officers.
These were advertised externally nationally in The Guardian,
also in the sector press and we have also trawled across the Civil
Service in the normal arrangements for that and advertised internally.
At the last count, Capita, who are running the recruitment exercise
for us, had received 3,000 applications for the 35 or so posts
and had to reprint the application pack. The indications are that
we will be successful. We were obviously successful in drawing
in a wide number of people. We will go through a rigorous and
thorough recruitment process which will involve a proper sifting
of those people to get down to an assessment centre where individual
candidates will be examined on the particular skills they can
bring to review visits and investigations work and then they will
be interviewed in front of a team of people from the Commission,
but teams that are being set up specifically to make sure that
we get the right people through the door. We know exactly what
we are looking for, we have done a lot of work in this area and
we are satisfied we will get the right candidates through the
159. The commentary on case 2 says that it ran
for nearly three years without clear objectives and planning.
You readily concede that. I notice in the Report, Paragraph 2.7
on page 16 that you still have 16 cases that have been open for
more than three years and indeed have 40 cases which have been
open for more than 18 months. Can you give the Committee an assurance
that there are not such similar nightmares sitting in the 16 cases
running for more than three years or the 40 cases that have been
running for more than 18 months?
(Mr Gillespie) One of the things we are concerned
about is looking at "cradle to grave" times for a particular
case. It is quite difficult to monitor through the systems but
nevertheless we are looking to introduce systems for that.