Ireland Establishes Charity Regulator
16 July 2013 at 12:16 pm
Ireland has become the latest country to announce the establishment of an independent Charity Regulator.
The Irish Government has approved plans by Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter and the new Authority will come into operation in 2014. (The UK Charity Commission which registers and regulates charities in England and Wale was established in 2006.)
However, unlike the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC), registered charities in Ireland will be required to pay an annual registration fee to the new Authority to help meet the costs of regulating the charity sector.
"It is intended that registered charities themselves will be asked to meet some of the cost of their regulation through payment of a modest annual registration fee,” the Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said.
“We have consulted with the charity sector on this and the fee structure to be put in place will take account of the views expressed by charities through the consultation process.
“By adopting this approach, in which the regulation of the sector will in time become largely self-financing, I hope to be able to make appointments to the new Authority later this year with a view to it coming into operation in 2014.
“An annual fee range of between €75 and €500, depending on the income of the charity, was proposed for consultation, with a token fee for very small charities.
“The fee structure to be put in place will take account of the views expressed by charities through the consultation process on the structure proposed. It is not envisaged that fees will be levied on charities before 2015.
The establishment of the Irish Charity Regulator follows public consultation on charities regulation carried out by the Department of Justice and Equality earlier this year.
Irish NGOs have welcomed the establishment of an Independent Charities Regulatory.
Hans Zomer, Director of Dóchas, the Irish Association of Development NGOs, said Dóchas has been calling for implementation of the Charities Act since 2009.
“Surveys show that Ireland’s charity organisations are currently the most trusted institutions in Ireland. We, therefore, have a responsibility to ensure that the work we do is well managed and effective. Transparency, accountability, and regulation are vital to any healthy institution. In the charity sector, they are all the more important. ”
“In the current economic climate, Ireland’s NGOs are experiencing cuts in funding, greater demand on their services and greater public scrutiny. This is an opportunity to strengthen the sector and reinforce the crucial role in society that we, as a sector, provide.”
The new Charities Regulatory Authority will have the following functions, under the Charities Act 2009:
- increase public trust and confidence in the management and administration of charitable trusts and charitable organisations;
- promote compliance by charity trustees with their duties in the control and management of charitable trusts and charitable organisations;
- promote the effective use of the property of charitable trusts or charitable organisations;
- ensure the accountability of charitable organisations to donors and beneficiaries of charitable gifts, and the public;
- promote understanding of the requirement that charitable purposes confer a public benefit;
- establish and maintain a register of charitable organisations;
- ensure and monitor compliance by charitable organisations with this Act;
- carry out investigations in accordance with this Act;
- encourage and facilitate the better administration and management of charitable organisations by the provision of information or advice, including in particular by way of issuing (or, as it considers appropriate, approving) guidelines, codes of conduct, and model constitutional documents;
- carry on such activities or publish such information (including statistical information) concerning charitable organisations and trusts as it considers appropriate;
- provide information (including statistical information) or advice, or make proposals, to the Minister on matters relating to the functions of the Authority.
A summary of key issues raised during the consultation on the implementation of the Charities Act 2009 carried out by the Department of Justice and Equality between January and March 2013 can be found at the Justice department website.
ACNC Assistant Commissioner, David Locke says the Irish charitable sector has been lobbying for this reform for over a decade because there is an inherent conflict with their Tax office both acting as the revenue collection agency and as the de facto regulator of charities.
“The similarities with Australia are striking,” he said.
However, Locke said there are independent charity regulators in many countries and the funding models vary, some charge small fees for registration or for the filing of annual returns.
“In Australia the ACNC has been established as a regulator funded by the Federal Government. All of our services including registration, our guidance and publications and the Charity Register are free. There are no proposals to change this,” he said.
The ACNC has released its six month progress report, revealing that the regulator has had more than 1 million hits on its website, received 14,500 enquiries over the telephone, registered 500 charities and produced more than 50 pieces of education and guidance materials.
View the ACNC's six month progress report here.