Italian Charity Faces Scrutiny
Tuesday, 30th April 2013 at 10:33 am
The new Australian charity regulator, the ACNC, would be expected to investigate claims raised in the media about the handling of community funds by a major Italian charity in Victoria under its legislative charter.
Fairfax Media has reported allegations that the Victorian-based charity CoAsIt had channelled millions of dollars into a parallel organisation without explanation to the charity’s membership or the wider Italian community.
Fairfax Media reported that the Victoria Police had confirmed it is investigating the organisation. The newspaper alleged that CoAsIt transferred almost $17million to another entity, the Italian Services Institute (ISI), over two decades.
CoAsIt is an umbrella organisation for Italian community groups which receives funding from the Italian, Federal and Victorian Governments for aged care, language and cultural programs.
CoAsIt has denied the allegations.
The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) was set up in December 2012 to promote and improve accountability as well as investigate issues of compliance. Under the Act, the ACNC is also able to collaborate with police and consumer affairs agencies in their investigations.
The ACNC says it has a policy of neither confirming nor denying specific investigations.
However, the Director of Communications at the ACNC, Jan Sharrock said some 60 complaints and cases had already been referred to the Commission for investigation and about half are still under investigation.
“We respect the presumption of innocence and a charity’s right to privacy so it is not appropriate to name these organisations while any investigation is being carried out.
“But we are not sitting around on our hands. We are working with the sector to improve areas of accountability and transparency and most of the time we find that there has been a simple error that can be resolved in a phone call.”
Under the Act the Commissioner can gather information necessary to monitor registered entities’ compliance with certain provisions and assess a registered entities’ ongoing entitlement to registration.
The Commissioner can also gather information and documents necessary to determine whether information given in compliance with certain provisions is correct.
CoAsIt has placed a statement on its website which says:
"The article appearing in The Age on 27 April 2013 is riddled with innuendo and notions of secrecy and lack of transparency concerning CO.AS.IT and in particular the Italian Services Institute.
"Instead of being praised for sound financial management CO.AS.IT and the Italian Services Institute are criticized for being careful and considered in their use of funds.
"CO.AS.IT and the Italian Services Institute are also criticized for undertaking careful planning, the involvement of professional advisers and the engagement with other Italian Community Groups to deliver on a plan for an holistic approach to the provision of welfare services to the Italian elderly.
"Italian Services Institute has substantial reserves because substantial funding is required to deliver these costly services as part of a planned and coherent programme.
"There is nothing secretive or sinister in this and CO.AS.IT and Italian Services Institute utterly reject such innuendo and criticism."