ACNC Adding to Sector Red Tape – UnitingCare
Tuesday, 27th August 2013 at 5:02 pm
UnitingCare Australia, the welfare arm of the Uniting Church, has released a report claiming the new charity regulator, the ACNC is adding another level of bureaucracy to an already burdened Not for Profit sector.
The Australian Charities and Not for profits Commission (ACNC) was set up in December 2012 with one of its tasks to promote the reduction of unnecessary regulatory obligations on the NFP sector. The UnitingCare document is endorsed by its National Director, Lin Hatfield Dodds, one of Australia's leading social justice advocates.
“Organisations registered with the ACNC must complete a mandatory Annual Information Statement (AIS). The ACNC will use the reports to assess compliance and to populate a searchable public register and, in future, populate an electronic ‘Charity Passport’ – to be used to share information on registered charities with authorised government agencies,” Lin Hatfield Dodds said.
“ACNC Commissioner Susan Pascoe has estimated that it will take NFP organisations between 10 and 45 minutes to complete the ACNC’s 2013 Annual Information Statement.
“The AIS is designed to help reduce the need for NFP organisations to report to various different government departments and agencies over time, however at the moment the AIS is an additional requirement,” Hatfield Dodds said.
“Based on the Commissioner’s 45 minute estimate it will take the 57,500 organisations registered with the ACNC a total of 43,125 hours to complete the AIS. That is the equivalent of a year’s work for nearly 25 full-time employees to meet this obligation.
“Our analysis of the 2013 AIS is that the majority of the information it requests has already been provided to government by the majority organisations registered with the ACNC. The cost to the sector of this duplication of effort is significant and critically many organisations can only meet the requirement by taking resources away from frontline service delivery.
“It is our experience that the ACNC has created an initial additional layer of reporting which could have been avoided. Much of the information required in the AIS and future financial reports has already been provided to government, often several times in different formats, to evidence operational and financial compliance.
“Whilst the ACNC continues its work to develop the mechanism of the ‘Charity Passport’ to share the information it collects on registered charities it is simultaneously asking for duplicative reporting from the sector.
“A significant opportunity for the ACNC to reduce red tape from the beginning of its operations has been missed and the cost of doing so has fallen to the sector,” Hatfield Dodds said.
“We believe that rather than ask registered organisations to provide and reconfigure information again for the ACNC it would have been prudent for the ACNC to first identify if they might use information already collected by governments and other regulators.
The Liberal Coalition has said it would abolish the ACNC if it gains office at the Federal Election. Liberal Opposition Spokesman, Kevin Andrews said told the Not for Profit forum at the National Press Club that he would replace the charity regulator with a Centre for Excellence.
However, Hatfield Dodds’ criticism of the ACNC falls short of supporting the Coalition’s plans to dismantle the charity regulator.
“We’ve long supported the establishment of a national regulator for the community sector,” she told Pro Bono Australia News.
“The national regulator offers people a single site to help them identify registered charities and also should boost productivity in the sector by reducing the amount of duplicated information provided by the community sector to many parts of government,” she said.
“UnitingCare Australia is confident the ACNC can reduce its own reporting and regulatory compliance and will deliver significant benefits for the community at large and Not for Profit organisations.
“The Minister is required to do a review of the ACNC after 5 years and if the ACNC has not delivered on its objectives then the Government could look to abolish it.”
In the UnitingCare published report Hatfield Dodds said:”We would encourage governments to consider the implications of regulation and red tape in a new way, one where the cost of the new regulation or reporting is borne by the government rather than the sector.
“Given the collective experience of the UnitingCare network, we believe that the only real way to see tangible change in the development and application of regulation and compliance is to create a disincentive to create red tape.
“Accordingly, we wholeheartedly support the inclusion of red tape reduction targets as performance assessment criteria for departmental secretaries and senior public servants.
“We believe that governments need to work closely with the NFP sector to develop an appropriate and sound regulatory impact assessment framework that accurately identifies the full cost of regulation before implementation.
“It is critical for governments to stop the practice of shifting the work to meet unnecessary, duplicative and burdensome compliance and regulation requirements onto the NFP sector.
“This requires both government and the sector to work together to take decisive action to cut red tape and identify new mechanisms and processes to develop appropriate regulation.”
The UnitingCare document is called Increasing Our Impact – Reducing Red Tape for the Not for Profit Sector.