SHETLAND Charitable Trust vice-chairman Jonathan Wills has criticised the trust’s administrative framework and likened it to the work of Soviet Union leader Joseph Stalin.
He said the fact that trustees are unable to amend proposals discussed at meetings, and only approve or reject them, makes for a “stage-managed charade”.
In response, audit and governance advisory committee chairman Keith Massey confirmed Wills’ concerns are being explored and that results of the discussions will be reported back before the trust’s next meeting.
Wills spoke up about the issue at Shetland Charitable Trust’s meeting in Lerwick on Thursday as the £230m trust approved its latest budget for dispersing grants among the community over the next financial year.
The vice-chairman said if he had disagreed with just one of the many strands of funding but admin procedure meant the whole report would have to be re-examined, instead of one section potentially being amended.
In a statement issued after the meeting, Wills said trustees were previously allowed to discuss and amend proposals put in front of them.
He added that the current system might put people off from becoming trustees in the future as it creates a “cosmetic fiction of democratic procedure”.
“The present arrangements effectively preclude any amendments at all. It is no exaggeration to observe that this procedure exactly follows the bureaucratic procedures used by Stalin to impose his will upon the Politburo of the USSR,” Wills said.
“It is normal democratic practice in all public bodies and commercial companies for board members to discuss and amend the proposals put to them. It was normal practice at the charitable trust and its predecessors for many years, with few ill effects.
“I have been told that such amendments might lead to ‘knee-jerk reactions’ and ‘decisions taken on the hoof’ – note the hackneyed phrases, always a sign of uncertainty. This is nonsense.
“If trustees really cannot be relied upon not to propose ill-thought-out, foolish and emotional amendments, or not to reject such amendments after reasoned debate, it suggests that the trust administration and the chair must have a very low opinion of our good sense and public spirit.”
Massey told Thursday’s meeting that the issue had already been “informally” talked about, adding that he “welcomed the discussion”.
“The issue of amendments to recommendations has been raised previously, and the trust’s audit and governance advisory committee is currently looking at it to address the concerns of Dr Wills and other trustees,” Massey said after the meeting.
“We expect to report before the next trust meeting.”
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