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