Reaction to Charity Commission release

February 23, 2011 6:17 PM

On Monday the Charity Commission published a report on its investigation into PERT which had been prompted by claims made in the Guardian newspaper about the relationship between the Politics and Economics Research Trust (PERT), a grant making charity, and the TaxPayers’ Alliance. The newspaper had wrongly claimed that PERT was being used as a vehicle to channel donations enhanced with Gift Aid from wealthy backers who are members of the Midlands Industrial Council to the TaxPayers' Alliance.

During the inquiry, the Charity Commission requested Robert Booth, the Guardian's reporter to provide additional information to substantiate what he wrote. The Charity Commission's report states that he "had no further information" to provide. The Charity Commission also interviewed the Secretary of the Midlands Industrial Council who confirmed that the newspaper article was misleading because he had been misquoted and that no funds had been given to PERT by that body - even if it had done so gift aid relief would not have been available. The Charity Commission’s findings, which were unqualified, exonerated both the TPA and PERT from any wrongdoing and said that there was no evidence to support the allegations made by Robert Booth in the Guardian.

Unfortunately the Guardian has published another piece by Booth, author of the original misleading article, who appears to be continuing his attempt to smear the TPA and PERT. The article gives a dishonest picture of the Charity Commission's findings which is likely to mislead readers of the Guardian newspaper. This is most unfortunate and we want to set the record straight.

The relationship between PERT and TPA is conducted at arms' length. PERT is a charitable grant-maker and TPA conducts research on behalf of PERT. The TPA (and other research bodies) makes applications to the trustees of PERT for funds to carry out individual research projects. The researcher is usually required to attend a meeting of the trustees to explain the context in which the project is being researched. Not all applications for grant-funding are successful and the trustees of PERT are quite demanding in their requirements concerning the quantity, quality and nature of the research to be undertaken. The TPA is always required by PERT to publish the results of research it supports.

All PERT grants to the TaxPayers' Alliance fall within the charitable objects of PERT. The published research is available through this website.

The Trustees of PERT have asked us to point out that the Charity Commission provided guidance that it should avoid reputational risks if relationships with groups like TPA are not managed properly, and the trustees confirmed that they were aware of reputational risks and demonstrated that their relationship with PERT was not improper. Furthermore, the Charity Commission did not make a finding that the relationship between PERT and TPA was improperly managed but concluded with a wider lesson for charities generally which was not relevant to its investigation into PERT. The Commission also confirmed in its report that it is not improper for a charity to fund a non-charitable body. The trustees of PERT have also asked us to state that they take their legal responsibilities seriously and this would, in the normal course, include keeping their governance procedures under review including the relationships with any researchers. The Charity Commission did not find any evidence of wrong-doing by the trustees of PERT, the investigation has concluded and they are not under any obligation to report to the Charity Commission or provide any further information in relation to this matter.On Monday the Charity Commission published a report on its investigation into PERT which had been prompted by claims made in the Guardian newspaper about the relationship between the Politics and Economics Research Trust (PERT), a grant making charity, and the TaxPayers’ Alliance. The newspaper had wrongly claimed that PERT was being used as a vehicle to channel donations enhanced with Gift Aid from wealthy backers who are members of the Midlands Industrial Council to the TaxPayers' Alliance.

During the inquiry, the Charity Commission requested Robert Booth, the Guardian's reporter to provide additional information to substantiate what he wrote. The Charity Commission's report states that he "had no further information" to provide. The Charity Commission also interviewed the Secretary of the Midlands Industrial Council who confirmed that the newspaper article was misleading because he had been misquoted and that no funds had been given to PERT by that body - even if it had done so gift aid relief would not have been available. The Charity Commission’s findings, which were unqualified, exonerated both the TPA and PERT from any wrongdoing and said that there was no evidence to support the allegations made by Robert Booth in the Guardian.

Unfortunately the Guardian has published another piece by Booth, author of the original misleading article, who appears to be continuing his attempt to smear the TPA and PERT. The article gives a dishonest picture of the Charity Commission's findings which is likely to mislead readers of the Guardian newspaper. This is most unfortunate and we want to set the record straight.

The relationship between PERT and TPA is conducted at arms' length. PERT is a charitable grant-maker and TPA conducts research on behalf of PERT. The TPA (and other research bodies) makes applications to the trustees of PERT for funds to carry out individual research projects. The researcher is usually required to attend a meeting of the trustees to explain the context in which the project is being researched. Not all applications for grant-funding are successful and the trustees of PERT are quite demanding in their requirements concerning the quantity, quality and nature of the research to be undertaken. The TPA is always required by PERT to publish the results of research it supports.

All PERT grants to the TaxPayers' Alliance fall within the charitable objects of PERT. The published research is available through this website.

The Trustees of PERT have asked us to point out that the Charity Commission provided guidance that it should avoid reputational risks if relationships with groups like TPA are not managed properly, and the trustees confirmed that they were aware of reputational risks and demonstrated that their relationship with PERT was not improper. Furthermore, the Charity Commission did not make a finding that the relationship between PERT and TPA was improperly managed but concluded with a wider lesson for charities generally which was not relevant to its investigation into PERT. The Commission also confirmed in its report that it is not improper for a charity to fund a non-charitable body. The trustees of PERT have also asked us to state that they take their legal responsibilities seriously and this would, in the normal course, include keeping their governance procedures under review including the relationships with any researchers. The Charity Commission did not find any evidence of wrong-doing by the trustees of PERT, the investigation has concluded and they are not under any obligation to report to the Charity Commission or provide any further information in relation to this matter.

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