Wednesday, May 07, 2008

One Plus governance issues equals organisational failure

The Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (pronounced Oscar for those of us south of the border) has issued a report into the collapse of the Scottish charity One Plus: One Parent Familes (no relation of One Parent Families/Gingerbread or its sister charity One Parent Families Scotland). One Plus went down with an overdraft of £2m plus – as well as other debts. OCSR’s case study report found “important lessons”.

The section on governance issues reads like a visit to a chamber of horrors. This is even sadder as the board were interested and enthusiastic.

1) “The Board did not appear to contain adequate skills and independence of thinking to reflect the needs of a multi-million-pound business” - including poor arrangements for recruitment and development, a finance committee that had difficulty meeting, the Board did "not seem capable and willing to hold the previous Chief Executive and Senior Management Team (SMT) to account".

2) “The lack of timely or full financial information being presented to the Board” - including tabled papers, out-of-date and insufficient information.

3) “The scale, skills and leadership of the finance department seems not to have been adequate for the size of charity”.

4) “The apparent lack of independent third party advice sought by the Board” - "The charity and the directors tended not to seek advice nor engage with the external auditors between audits", no internal auditors and no audit committee.

5) "Both the Board and the SMT appear not to have taken responsibility for making decisions to resolve difficulties when they were identified".

The other sections of the report, including those dealing with broader funding issues, are worth a read too.

Its worth noting that the same themes recur in so many organisational failures in the public and third sectors. The sooner those lessons are learnt, the better.

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