Soar­ing num­ber of fat­cats at char­ity earn over £60,000

The Scottish Mail on Sunday - - News - By Gor­don Black­stock

TOP salaries at a Scot­tish-based aid agency have soared in the past year.

Newly re­leased ac­counts for bosses at Mercy Corps Europe, based in Ed­in­burgh, show they have en­joyed bumper pay rises, with the num­ber of staff on more than £60,000 in­creas­ing from 14 to 23.

The char­ity’s high­est-paid em­ployee re­ceived be­tween £140,000 and £150,000 last year – a sim­i­lar salary to First Min­is­ter Ni­cola Stur­geon.

Pre­vi­ously, the top earner had been paid be­tween £130,000 and £140,000.

Yes­ter­day, the char­ity re­fused to say which mem­ber of staff re­ceived the top fig­ure but it is not its ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Si­mon O’Con­nell, who is un­der­stood to re­ceive be­tween £120,000 and £130,000.

In to­tal, 18 mem­bers of its staff in Scot­land are on more than £70,000 a year at the Euro­pean wing of the US char­ity – up from only six em­ploy­ees last year.

Ac­counts show Mercy Corps, which helps the needy in some of the world’s most dan­ger­ous re­gions, em­ployed on aver­age 118 work­ers through­out the year.

It means that one in six mem­bers of staff is be­ing paid more than £60,000.

Last year Greek au­thor­i­ties launched an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into two Mercy Corps work­ers amid claims that they sex­u­ally ex­ploited refugees and mis­used funds. The row saw the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion sus­pend a pay­ment it was to make to the char­ity.

Af­ter the Ox­fam story broke in Fe­bru­ary, Mercy Corps re­vealed it had un­know­ingly em­ployed one of the dis­graced aid work­ers. It said it had hired an ex-Ox­fam em­ployee sacked for down­load­ing pornog­ra­phy and il­le­gal ma­te­rial in Haiti.

It claimed Ox­fam had given the worker a pos­i­tive ref­er­ence de­spite his ac­tiv­i­ties in the earth­quake-hit Caribbean is­land.

But Mercy Corps was then forced to ad­mit some of its own staff had been guilty of sex­ual mis­con­duct too and it had sacked five work­ers in the past year. Last night, politi­cians and cam­paign­ers said that while the char­ity car­ried out es­sen­tial work, its level of ex­ec­u­tive pay could spark a pub­lic back­lash.

Scot­tish Con­ser­va­tive equal­i­ties spokesman An­nie Wells said: ‘There’s no ques­tion Mercy Corps has been re­spon­si­ble for some great work in some of the world’s most chal­leng­ing places but they need to re­tain pub­lic sup­port and sym­pa­thy. Af­ter the scan­dal which en­gulfed a num­ber of aid or­gan­i­sa­tions, it be­came clear that char­i­ties should be more trans­par­ent and ac­count­able. Peo­ple who do­nate to Mercy Corps will want some jus­ti­fi­ca­tion as to th­ese pay in­creases.’

A cam­paigner who has writ­ten ex­ten­sively on the char­ity in­dus­try has ques­tioned the pay rise.

David Craig, au­thor of The Great Char­ity Scan­dal, said: ‘The pay bosses at Mercy Corps Europe get is sim­i­lar in size to the pay other aid agen­cies pay, but those or­gan­i­sa­tions are far big­ger and em­ploy far more peo­ple. Char­ity pay has con­tin­ued to grow rapidly since the re­ces­sion of 2008.’

More than a third of Mercy Corps Europe’s £100 mil­lion in­come comes via the UK Govern­ment, which handed over £38 mil­lion last year, up from £34 mil­lon the pre­vi­ous year.

Aside from lim­ited pri­vate do­na­tions, the rest of its in­come comes via the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion and other na­tional gov­ern­ments’ aid de­part­ments. The Scot­tish Govern­ment gave the char­ity just over £8,000 last year.

Last night, a spokesman for Mercy Corps Europe said that the level of pay was fair and re­flected the es­sen­tial hu­man­i­tar­ian work that it did around the world, ‘de­liv­er­ing pro­jects un­der dif­fi­cult cir­cum­stances, of­ten in partnership, and with a huge range of stake­hold­ers’.

‘Peo­ple who do­nate will want some jus­ti­fi­ca­tion’

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