Zoo cleared but ordered to review cash controls

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EDINBURGH Zoo has been ordered to review its control on finances by Scotland’s charity regulator, but has been cleared of wrongdoing following a lengthy investigation.

The probe follows allegations that surfaced more than a year ago, sparking a crisis at the attraction.

However, the review by the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) has now been completed, and while it made some hard-line recommendations, it dismissed accusations of “misappropriation of charitable assets”.

Those centred around then acting zoo chief executive Gary Wilson, after bosses received an anonymous letter alleging similarities between a new monkey house and an extension at his home.

He was cleared by an internal investigation and returned to the zoo in a different role, with that verdict being backed by the country’s charity watchdog.

The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS), which runs the Capital attraction, was also investigated over the viability of the £6 million, ten-year lease of its high-profile pandas, Tian Tian and Yang Guang.

While clearing the organisation of the worst of the allegations – which included a manager syphoning money from the zoo – OSCR’s recommendations still urged an improvement.

Its statement read: “It is clear from the evidence presented during the course of our inquiries there have been past weaknesses with respect to the level of overall control exerted by the charity trustees over the senior management team.

“A symptom of this was the lack of full and consistent deployment of key policies, procedures and good practice across the society which has manifested in an apparent lack of understanding and/or compliance with these across the organisation.

“However, the charity trustees have already undertaken considerable work to identify areas that need to be strengthened and are taking appropriate action to address the weaknesses.

“We acknowledge some of this work was already in progress before the complaints were received by OSCR.

“We have found no evidence to suggest the charity trustees have not acted in the best interests of the charity and note the extensive investigations conducted by the charity found no evidence of misappropriation of charitable assets.”

RZSS chairman Manus Fullerton added: “I can assure members all of OSCR’s recommendations are being actioned.”