OUTRAGE AT 'LOST' CHARITY MILLIONS; EXCLUSIVE: Huge Potential for Fraud as Dossier Reveals Widespread Failure to Publish Accounts

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Byline: TAMZIN LEWIS

MORE than half of Scotland's 28,000 charities have broken the law by failing to disclose millions of pounds in donations.

Around 15,000 charities, including major cancer and children's aid agencies, have breached statutory law by failing to submit annual accounts.

A secret dossier exposing the 'guilty' charities has been submitted to the Crown Office, but officials have failed so far to take action against the organisations.

The independent Scottish Council of Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) asked all Scottish charities to provide details of their activities to build a national charities register.

But more than half declined to open up their accounts, breaching statutory law.

The astonishing revelation means half of the flourishing [pounds sterling]2 billion charity sector is operating in secret, avoiding any accountability while enjoying the benefits of tax relief and public funding.

The shock figure follows a Court of Session judgment freezing the assets of Breast Cancer Research (Scotland) after allegations that the group's fundraiser Tony Freeman was paid [pounds sterling]8 million in commission from the [pounds sterling]13 million donated to the charity over seven years.

Martin Sime, SCVO chief executive, said: 'The government affords charitable status to organisations which gives advantages in not paying tax and receiving, for instance, lottery money. Charities should therefore be publicly accountable.'

Policy manager Philippa Bonella said: 'All charities have a duty to declare their annual report, accounts and a foundation statement to any member of the public within 28 days.

'Over the past two years we have contacted every charity to ask for these details in addition to the directorships,' she said. 'Around 15,000 failed to reply and we can only speculate on the reasons.

'They have broken the law by not declaring their accounts, but the SCVO is not a policeman to catch crooks, it is here to provide a support network. It is the Scottish Charities Office's job to investigate, but they failed to take our concerns on board.'

Three new charities are created in Scotland each day. In a competitive market there is also a growing trend towards charities employing fundraising companies as many cannot afford to pay salaries for their own staff.

The SCVO has spent a decade lobbying for an independent Scottish charities watchdog with real powers, similar to the Charities Commission in England and Wales, which ensures that all charities are registered and submit accounts annually. …