CFDG says no to extending Freedom of Information Act to charities

11th February 2008

The Charity Finance Directors' Group (CFDG) strongly opposes extending the scope of the Freedom of Information Act to charities delivering public services on behalf of government. The Ministry of Justice has just finished consulting on whether the FOI Act should be expanded to apply to other types of public authorities in addition to those it already covers. The consultation looks at a two types of organisation that could fall into an expanded scope. It is the second type that has implications for the voluntary sector and is defined as "providing under contract with a public authority any service whose provision is a function of that authority."

Ernese Skinner, Policy and Campaigns Manager at CFDG said: "Charities by their very nature need to be highly transparent and accountable to demonstrate how they raise and spend money and thus build public trust. Charities are increasingly raising their game to be ever more transparent and it is essential that they are encouraged. Extending the FOI Act would not be our preferred way of addressing this. We believe it would instead prove an administrative and financial burden on the sector."

Charities that deliver public services on behalf of government are already accountable to the public authority via their service delivery contract. It is likely that these charities are already providing all the information necessary for an FOI request. However, public authorities are better placed to answer FOI requests as they have the resources and infrastructure already in place to do so. As Ernese Skinner explained: "Charities would face significant set up costs if they were to take on responsibility for FOI requests. They would need to train staff and put in place appropriate systems and processes to answer the FOI requests in the given timescales - all of which would take them away from the day to day running of the charity."


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