The Charity Commission boss who quit days after his appointment faced fewer “checks than someone doing a paper round” before he was given the job, MPs have warned.
Martin Thomas stepped down after he was announced as the new chairman of the regulator when it emerged that complaints of “inappropriate behaviour” had been made against him before his resignation as boss of a women’s aid charity.
On Tuesday, the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee heard that Women For Women International UK had not been contacted before his appointment as it was the department’s policy not to ask for references.
Julian Knight, the committee’s chairman, told senior civil servants that he was “absolutely astounded” that for a job in a £70 billion sector of the UK economy overseeing 180,000 charities, the DCMS “seem to do less checks … than frankly you would do if you’re employing someone to do a paper round”.
Sarah Healey, permanent secretary at the DCMS, said that they had no plans to change this policy, but in future they would check with the Charity Commission if there had been any issues raised about the organisations any new chairman was involved with.
Allegations of bullying behaviour by Mr Thomas at the aid charity had been reported to the commission, but the links had not been made with his appointment to head of the regulator.
Allegations of bullying
Mr Thomas had faced several misconduct allegations during his time at the charity, including sending a picture of himself in a Victoria Secret’s lingerie store to a colleague, over which he was acquitted of any wrongdoing.
The final allegation, which was reported to the commission and for which Mr Thomas resigned, related to his tone and language toward a colleague during a Zoom meeting, it is understood.
Mr Thomas said that he did not declare the allegations during the recruitment process because he believed at the time that he had been “exonerated in full”.
Writing in this newspaper, Mr Thomas said last month that he never deliberately set out to offend anyone.
The select committee heard that Number 10 was consulted before the appointment of Mr Thomas, described in the hearing as a “pal” of Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, but officials refused to reveal what was said about the seven shortlisted candidates.
The committee also expressed concern after William Shawcross, the Commissioner for Public Appointments who is holding an independent inquiry into Mr Thomas’s appointment, said that he did not think that the DCMS officials were at fault.
They warned that the comments suggested that he had pre-judged the outcome of his investigation into the “shambolic” appointment.
Ministers are now considering whether to return to the shortlist of candidates to appoint a new chairman or to begin the recruitment process again.