MPs accuse Shawcross of prejudicing own inquiry into Charity Commission chair ‘debacle’

Commissioner for Public Appointments William Shawcross has been criticised by MPs for appearing to prejudice his own investigation into failures around the appointment of Martin Thomas as Charity Commission chair.

The government’s preferred candidate Thomas resigned days before he was due to take up the post after it emerged he has been the subject of misconduct claims at a charity he had chaired Women for Women International UK.

This week Shawcross, along with Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) officials, were questioned by MPs over due diligence concerns around Thomas’s selection and appointment.

It emerged late last year that Women for Women International UK was not even contacted by recruiters. Whether references were properly checked is among issues Shawcross is looking into as part of his own investigation into Thomas’ appointment.

But during MPs’ questioning Shawcross was accused by
House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee
chair Julian Knight, Conservative MP for Solihull, of “speaking ahead of your own inquiry” after the Commissioner said that the DCMS is “not to blame” for failures around Thomas’ appointment.

During, at times heated, exchanges between MPs and Shawcross, Kevin Brennan, Labour MP fror Cardiff West, accused Shawcross of “being a little tetchy with us, this morning.”

Meanwhile, John Nicholson, Scottish National Party MP for Ochil and South Perthshire, told Shawcross: “What you said was that the DCMS is not to blame, you have told us your view…this disqualifies you from conducting any kind of report from this debacle.”

Shawcross also told MPs that the Charity Commission chair appointment process is “a great misfortune”.

“I’m very sorry to see the Charity Commission stumble in its appointment of a new chairman, because they need a new chairman, because they have been without a chair for a year now,” he told MPs.

He also told MPs that once he has completed his inquiry into processes around the Charity Commission chair appointment, “I’m very happy to come back to talk to you”.

The Charity Commission chair role has been vacant since March last year. The role has been covered in the interim by Ian Karet, whose term has been extended to June.

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