International Praise for Aus Charity Regulator
10 April 2014 at 5:03 pm
International charity experts in Melbourne and Sydney this week have praised Australia’s ill-fated national charity regulator, the ACNC, for its strong reputation in the sector and high compliance rates.
Experts visiting Australia for the 6th International Charity Regulators Forum have also challenged Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews’ view that the Australian Charities and Not for Profits Commission (ACNC) is heavy handed and tying organisations in red-tape.
Chief Legal Officer with the UK Charities Commission based in London, Kenneth Dibble, said the ACNC has had “extraordinary” success just 18 months since its inception.
“Introducing new regulations from scratch requires persuasion, good will and real interaction with charities and Not for Profits. The ACNC has a mature relationship with the sector as a standalone regulator outside of the revenue office,” Dibble said.
“It is flexible and sensitive to its constituency’s needs in a way that allows the sector to thrive. In such a short time the ACNC has commanded such respect from the sector. It’s very impressive.”
This week’s global charities conference has brought together academics and leaders in charity regulation from Europe, Canada, Singapore and New Zealand.
David Robb, the Chief Executive of the Scottish Charity Regulator, an agency similar to the ACNC in function, also praised the Australian model that the former Gillard Labor government introduced 2012.
“The ACNC team here has done a fantastic job, learning from the international experience. I have a lot of admiration for them,” Robb said.
“They have put together cutting edge practice with online services and achieved a lot in a short space of time. The agency has good relationships with other government offices, crucially the Australian Tax Office.“
Robb said that when his Scottish agency was introduced, moving charities regulation from the revenue office, some people “grumbled initially” but then it garnered widespread public and sector support.
“There was no dedicated regulator in Scotland until 2005. There was little transparency and the relevant department had few resources to check on charities. There was no annual reporting system or active policing. We had some high profile scandals where significant amounts were misappropriated,” Robb said.
“The Scottish Parliament was persuaded to act. It was a big step forward. Now basic information is provided to the public and charities appreciate that the regulator understands their business and offers advice sensitive to their situation.”
The conference heard that more than 83 per cent of registered charities have complied with financial reporting requirements due last month – a higher compliance rate than that achieved by any other comparable charity regulator around the world.
Shadow Assistant Treasurer Andrew Leigh said the Abbott Government had no real plan for this country’s charities.
“It pretends to consult but will not listen to the pleas of the sector which services and empowers some of Australia’s most vulnerable people,” he said.
Australian Charity Law Association Chair Anne Robinson said the forum provided an unique vehicle for practitioners of charity regulation to discuss the issue of what made good charity regulation with international regulators.
“Compared with many of the other international regulators here today, Australia is a late comer to charity regulation. For its supporters, the ACNC is a major step forward in creating a national regulatory environment that works for the sector not against; it has been important to have a body that has functions the ATO and ASIC does not in terms of providing effective regulation," Robinson said.
"For its detractors, especially those who have not had to report before, it has been a significant piece of work.”
The legislation to abolish the ACNC under the Federal Government Repeal omnibus was referred to the Economics Legislation Committee for inquiry in March.