The National Audit Office has published the findings from its investigation into whether £1.3 million of donations from a charity, The W O Street Charitable Foundation (the Foundation) were eligible to be matched with funds from the Cabinet Office’s Grassroots Endowment Match Challenge Fund (the Challenge Fund), which was part of the Grassroots Grants Programme.
The Grassroots Grants Programme ran from 2008 to 2011. The Cabinet Office was the programme’s overall sponsor and appointed the Community Development Foundation (CDF) to run the programme, including the Challenge Fund, on its behalf. CDF in turn appointed local funders to administer the programme locally including securing donations and submitting claims for match funding.
The key findings of the investigation are as follows:
- The NAO cannot see a justification for the decision by local funders to classify the Foundation as ‘ineffective’ in a way that complies with the guidance, which was the basis on which they claimed the donations were eligible for matching under the terms of the Challenge Fund. We have not been able to determine the exact amount of public funding received by the local funders in relation to the donations, but we estimate it to be around £753,000 of public funds across the three local funders.
- In both 2012 and 2015, the Cabinet Office reviewed the eligibility of the Foundation’s donations and concluded each time that the donations were eligible for matching. It accepts, however, that there were weaknesses in the Challenge Fund’s design.
- While the NAO did not set out to review the overall effectiveness of the Challenge Fund, today’s report identifies flaws in the design of this historic scheme and gaps in the Cabinet Office and CDF’s oversight. These included a lack of clarity in the guidance for local funders, insufficient checks on the eligibility of donations to attract match funding and poor record-keeping.
The Cabinet Office has introduced measures to strengthen its oversight of subsequent schemes. It told the NAO that it intends to review and improve its grant making and record keeping. It also intends to work with the local funders involved to ensure that endowment funds are managed appropriately.
July 21 2015