Animal welfare charity RSPCA has been issued an official warning by the Charity Commission after it reportedly awarded a former executive with a six-figure sum following an age discrimination accusation.
It was reported by The Times that acting head Michael Ward had been given over £150,000 when he left the charity in May. Ward, 57, was paid off after he claimed he was not given a permanent role because of his age.
The commission’s warning is critical of the trustees for not ensuring that the decision was properly made, particularly given the large sum of money involved. The warning concluded that these failings amounted to “mismanagement in the administration of the charity”.
The commission said it was vital that “an institution” such as the RSPCA demonstrated the “highest standards of governance”. It added that the charity had seen an “unusually high turnover” of chief executives and significant periods of time without a “substantiative” chief executive in post.
David Holdsworth, registrar of charities for England and Wales and deputy chief executive of the Charity Commission, said: “The RSPCA is a much-loved national institution performing a crucial role in animal protection, with its staff and volunteers undertaking vital work. The public, and the RSPCA’s many members and supporters, need it to succeed and to deliver important benefits for society. They rightly expect that it should be run by its trustees to the highest standards.
The official warning requires the RSPCA to administer formal training to its council members to ensure they are fully aware of their responsibility as trustees and ensure they adhere to the charity’s code of conduct. The commission said trustees should implement the recommendation of an independent report, commissioned by the charity, into the processes followed in recruiting and appointing a new chief executive.
“Unfortunately, that has not been the case and the charity’s governance has fallen short which has led to people asking legitimate questions about the pay-out to the former executive.”
He added: “If the trustees are not able to satisfy us that they have responded meaningfully and promptly to our official warning, we will not hesitate to take further regulatory action.”