Government appoints Charity Commission chair despite MPs’ concerns

The government has confirmed the appointment of its preferred candidate Orlando Fraser as the next Charity Commission chair, despite concerns raised by MPs.

In their scrutiny of his appointment members of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee said that his selection had been "slapdash and unimaginative".

Fraser had been rejected from a previous recruitment process that saw the government select Martin Thomas as the next chair.

However, Thomas was forced to quit late last year just days before taking office after it emerged he had been under investigation for inappropriate behaviour at a charity he had chaired.

MPs also raised concerns over a lack of diversity in Fraser’s selection and charity sector leaders had called for the appointment process to be rerun following the Thomas debacle.

But despite their criticism of his selection, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has confirmed his three-year term.

In a short statement issued on Friday evening the DCMS made no mention of MPs’ concerns and instead listed Fraser’s career history and track record in the charity sector.

This includes serving on the Commission’s board from 2013 and 2017 and his 30-year experience as a barrister.

“Orlando’s involvement in the voluntary sector stretches back to 1992, when he took an aid convoy to Bosnia to help its Muslim population,” said the DCMS.

As chair Fraser will earn £62,500 a year for two and a half days work a week.

Among other concerns raised about Fraser’s selection is his political links, as he had unsuccessfully stood for the Conservative Party at the 2005 general election.

His role as a legal member on the Charity Commission’s board, when the regulator was forced to withdraw its guidance for charities during the EU Referendum, has also come in for criticism.

This is the second time that the government has appointed a Charity Commission chair despite MPs concerns.

They also failed to endorse the candidature of former Conservative minister Baroness Stowell, who was appointed chair in 2018 despite MPs' concerns around her suitability.

The NCVO notes that Fraser's appointment "will be the second chair of the Charity Commission in a row not to receive the explicit backing of parliament" adding "this is disappointing".

It urged the government to "look again at this process and work to ensure that future Chairs have the backing of parliament".

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