ACNC Investigates Raft of Charity Complaints
Thursday, 23rd May 2013 at 11:48 am
Australia’s charity regulator, the Australian Charities and Not for profits Commission (ACNC) has received 119 complaints about charities since it began operating in December – the majority from members of the public alleging fraud.
“Not all complaints made about charities fall within the ACNC’s jurisdiction,” according to ACNC Assistant Commissioner, Murray Baird.
“However, of the complaints and referrals received, 72 were referred to the ACNC’s Compliance and Strategic Intelligence team, resulting in 37 investigations.
“Of the cases received and assessed by the ACNC, 28 per cent have been related to allegation of fraud, which is the most common risk category,” Baird said.
“The major concern is around private benefit and poor governance.”
“The issue at the heart of the public’s concern around charities is public benefit. Is the charity diverting resources from the intended public benefit to the private benefit of those involved in the charity?
“The ACNC’s approach begins with providing information and guidance to help charities to understand and meet their obligations. We also begin from a presumption that charities act honestly and prudently. However, the ACNC will take decisive action when a charity acts dishonestly and puts public trust and confidence at risk.”
Some of the referrals have come from charities complaining about other charities but the ACNC would not provide details of those complaints.
Details of just how far the investigations have gone are not yet being made public by the ACNC.
Murray Baird says the investigations by the 11-member Compliance and Strategic Intelligence team are at various stages.
If the ACNC uses enforcement powers and imposes sanctions as a result of an investigation into a charity, Baird says this will be included on the charity's listing on the ACNC Register.
However, that part of the ACNC website will not be operational until July 1, 2013 when charities will begin posting their annual statements.
The ACNC Register is the online database of all registered Australian charities .
In April, Pro Bono Australia reported that 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 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 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.
Members of the public can raise concerns about registered charities by calling 13 ACNC (13 2262) or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.