Charity Commission CEO Paula Sussex: "2015 has called for hard graft – but we've risen to the challenge"

Written by Civil Service World on 22 December 2015 in Interview

With the end of 2015 in sight, we asked Whitehall's top officials to review the year, set out their priorities for 2016 – and shed some light on their festive plans. Charity Commission chief executive Paula Sussex ​ takes part in our biggest-ever perm secs' round-up series...

How did you tackle the biggest challenges facing your organisation in 2015?
The Charity Commission is at a point of challenge but also of great opportunity, as we were fortunate enough to get invest-to-save funding from the Treasury for a really comprehensive three-year transformation programme. This year has been one that has required hard graft, for which I am grateful to have seen my Commission colleagues rise to the challenge and embrace the change. During this year I have continued to, as I call it, “fix the plumbing”, but the new resource and new opportunities are leading to a time of real development for the organisation. How have we done this? Now that we have completed much of the groundwork for our change programme it is now being embedded within the organisation, with colleagues taking direct responsibility for key projects. This increases a sense of buy-in and ownership – that staff are part of the answer to how we improve. In a sense we are equipping operational managers with all of the tools to do their jobs better – a change in culture, a change of process and a change in our enabling technologies. 

The fruits of our labours will soon start to be seen, with new digital solutions to managing our casework and registration workload. This means better use of our data and new and more effective ways of identifying risk amongst charities. The need to identify any risk and threat to public trust in charities became abundantly clear this summer with the problems in charity fundraising and high profile cases in the media. We certainly haven’t arrived yet, but the direction of travel is being recognised externally, by the NAO and through recent research among charities and the public themselves who have said they see us as an effective regulator.  

What are your department’s top priorities in the year ahead?
Our board has set a very clear Strategic Plan, to give the public greater confidence and trust in charities. The plan sets our four key objectives, and it is my job to ensure we deliver them. This involves protecting charities from abuse and mismanagement, enabling trustees to run their charities more effectively, encouraging greater transparency and accountability by charities and by operating as an efficient, expert regulator with sustainable funding. Our change programme is firmly embedded in this year’s business plan and will be in next year’s, and will continue to be my top priority. 

What film do you hope to watch over the festive period – and what’s the best game to play with the family on Christmas Day?
After a pretty exhausting summer, my Christmas break will probably consist of a fair amount of sleep! 

Perm secs round-up 2015: Whitehall's top civil servants review the year – and look ahead to 2016

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