Transparency

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Our commitment to transparency[edit | edit source]

This page provides information on our approach to transparency. It provides guidance on some specific issues and is not intended to be comprehensive or limiting.

Requesting financial information[edit | edit source]

In accordance with our commitment to transparency, the charity is amenable to answering reasoned requests for additional financial information, either based on the information provided here or more generally. Openness is the default position.

Of course, not everything can be made public, and we would expect to refuse requests that:

  • are not in our opinion made reasonably and in good faith; or where no reasons are given
  • relate to information we consider to be confidential, as set out below
  • we consider to be of little or no interest to our members or wider community ('please report in a specific format of my own devising')
  • relate to information of only historic interest ('how much did trustee X spend on lunch on 1st January 2011?')
  • would take an unreasonable amount of staff time to determine ('please provide a fully-itemised breakdown of everything')
  • are unduly burdensome owing to their frequency
  • are expected in an unreasonable timescale ('please answer by Wednesday')
  • are expected to an unreasonable level of accuracy ('please state what you mean by "about £250"; I want the exact figure')

If we do need to refuse a request we would normally expect to be able to provide a reason.

Please bear in mind that we have to balance our commitment to transparency with the need to operate effectively as a charity. That means not expending an excessive amount of staff time extracting, collating and publishing large quantities of detailed information (even if that information may not in itself be confidential). Staff time is not a free resource, and the community as well as our funders rightly expect staff salaries to be spent largely on delivering our charitable programmes, with as little as possible being spent on purely administrative and financial tasks.

The need for the charity to operate effectively also means that staff cannot be expected to stop whatever they are doing and concentrate immediately on a request for information. Depending on what is asked for, staff time may have to be set aside to deal with the query. That may not be possible straight away, and there may even be a delay of up to several weeks if the query needs specialist skills or will require a significant amount of work.

Confidentiality[edit | edit source]

No matter how open we aspire to be, there are certain types of documents and information that we are not able to release. They include things relating to:

  • Sensitive HR or personnel matters
  • Financially sensitive matters
  • Commercially or legally sensitive matters
  • Documents or information requiring to be held in confidence for reasons of operational effectiveness.

The first three categories should be self-explanatory. The last category includes documents that, while not necessarily sensitive per se, cannot realistically be released without jeopardizing the day to day operational effectiveness of the charity.

For example, the vast majority of internal emails between staff do not contain sensitive material, but making email correspondence public would make it impossible for the staff to do their jobs. It would not only make the office email system unusable for its normal purpose, but would need a whole new set of staff members to reply to queries about why so-and-so said such-and-such, in that particular way, to so-and-so.

Another example would be confidential working papers that need to be seen and discussed by the board before they can be published. Most papers can be and are are published before they are seen by the board, but that is not possible in every case.

Some links to public information[edit | edit source]