LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The large salaries paid to senior executives at some of Britain's leading aid agencies risk bringing the organisations and the wider charitable world into disrepute, a regulator has told the Daily Telegraph.
Looking at Britain's 14 leading aid agencies, the newspaper found that the number of charity executives earning 100,000 pounds or more a year had risen by nearly 60 percent to 30 from 19 over the past three years.
The Telegraph said 11 executives were paid more than Prime Minister David Cameron's 145,000 pound salary - including British Red Cross chief executive Sir Nicholas Young, whose pay had risen 12 percent since 2010 to 184,000 pounds, despite a one percent fall in the charity's donations and a three percent fall in revenues.
Other top earners were Justin Forsyth, chief executive of Save the Children, who received 163,000 pounds last year, and the charity’s then chief operating officer Anabel Hoult who was paid 168,653 pounds, the Telegraph said.
Revenue at Save the Children has fallen by three percent since 2010, though donations were up "markedly", the paper reported. It also published a list of those it said were the highest-paid executives at the biggest aid agencies.
Responding to the figures, the chairman of the Charity Commission, William Shawcross, said organisations should re-consider what their top executives are paid.
"In these difficult times, when many charities are experiencing shortfalls, trustees should consider whether very high salaries are really appropriate, and fair to both the donors and the taxpayers who fund charities," Shawcross told the Telegraph.
"Disproportionate salaries risk bringing organisations and the wider charitable world into disrepute," he added.
The charities investigated by the Telegraph form the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), raising money individually or collectively to respond to humanitarian emergencies such as Syria, East Africa in the wake of a hunger crisis in 2011 and Haiti after the 2010 earthquake.
A DEC spokesman told the Telegraph that boardroom pay at the organisations was "broadly in line" with other charities.
"The proportion of DEC appeal funds that can be spent by member agencies on the UK management of their disaster responses is capped at seven percent," he was quoted as saying.
"Over the past five years the DEC has raised over 193 million pounds for its appeals and the cost of raising those funds was less than four percent of that total."
DISGRACEFUL OR VALUE FOR MONEY?
The response to the report was mixed on social media, with some Twitter users condemning executives' pay and others defending it as a necessity.
"disgraceful this. Charities should cap max wage to 50k no more after all its a charity most of us do charity for NOTHING," tweeted John *NFFC*.
Ziya Meral said: "Charities need scrutiny, accountability, not only in finances, but also their 'marketing' and actual work and self-declared mandates."
Some tweeters questioned where the interest of large international aid agencies lay.
"Small local charities with devoted staff & many volunteers seem a better choice," Blogmella said.
At the same time, there were many tweets suggesting that big payouts were fair.
"it's a lot of money but its a large organisation needs good leadership .... and hence needs to be rewarded appropriatley (sic)," said imranq.
"#charity it's the wrong focus, ask how effective charities are not how much they cost. most are amazing #valueformoney," tweeted Jane Ordaz Stubbs.
Aid Leap said: "Agree that charities shouldn't try to compete with priv sector wages but to get good CEOs where do you draw the line?"