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Crackdown on UK Charities Funding Terror

23 October 2014 at 9:09 am
Lina Caneva
The UK Government has announced new funding for its Charity Commission to tackle abuse, including extremist activity, in the charity sector.

Lina Caneva | 23 October 2014 at 9:09 am


Crackdown on UK Charities Funding Terror
23 October 2014 at 9:09 am

The UK Government has announced new funding for its Charity Commission to tackle abuse, including extremist activity, in the charity sector.

Prime Minister David Cameron has allocated an additional £8 million ($AUD14.6 million) of funding to boost the Charity Commission’s ability to tackle abuse, including the use of funds for extremist and terrorist activity.

The PM said the Charity Commission will receive the funding over 3 years to help re-focus its regulatory activity on proactive monitoring and enforcement in the highest risk areas like abuse of charities for terrorist and other criminal purposes, such as tax avoidance and fraud.

“The new funding will be announced as new measures to protect the charity sector from abuse are published in the draft Protection of Charities Bill, following a public consultation last year,” Cameron said.

“The Charity Commission requested strengthened powers as most of its current powers – such as the ability to freeze charity bank accounts, direct the charity to take a specific course of action, suspend or remove the charity’s trustees, or appoint an interim manager to run the charity – are over 20 years old.”

The measures in the draft bill include:

  • Banning people with convictions for certain criminal offences – such as terrorism or money laundering – from being a charity trustee
  • A new power to disqualify a person from being a charity trustee where the Charity Commission considers them unfit
  • A new power for the Commission to require a charity to shut down in an inquiry where there has been misconduct or mismanagement and allowing the charity to continue would risk undermining public trust and confidence in charities
  • A new power for the Commission to issue an official warning which it could use in less serious cases. The Commission can put this on the charity’s official record and if evidence is found that they have not dealt with the problem then the Commission will take further action
  • Closing loopholes that have prevented the Charity Commission from taking enforcement action in the past, such as where trustees have in the past resigned in order to avoid removal and consequent disqualification

“Today’s changes will help make sure that when people donate to charity, their money always goes to genuinely good causes. They will help us become a country that stands even taller in the world, and prouder and stronger too,” Cameron said.

“I welcome the draft bill. It will give us new powers which will help us to be a more effective regulator,” Chairman of the Charity Commission Sir William Shawcross said.

“The new power to issue an official warning, for example, will allow us to warn trustees that we are monitoring their compliance with the law in situations where more forceful intervention would not be appropriate.”

Australia’s national charity regulator, the ACNC announced earlier this month that it is working with the Australian Federal Police and other intelligence and enforcement agencies to share information on funds going to charities operating in areas of conflict such as Syria and Iraq.

Charities operating overseas were the focus of a speech by ACNC Commissioner Susan Pascoe AM at the launch event of the recently released Curtin Australian Charities 2013 Report.

ACNC Commissioner Susan Pascoe AM spoke about the importance of the report’s findings, including the international activities that Australian registered charities undertake.

“We know from our own work and that of all the other international charity regulators (that) we need to reduce the risk of misuse of funds sent overseas, including through charities,” Pascoe said.

Pascoe said the Curtin Report revealed 17 per cent of registered charities are involved overseas – through directly operating in another country, or by helping people outside Australia.

“Charities operate in more than 100 countries. In 2013, outside of Australia, Australian charities were most involved in India, the Philippines, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia.

“Charities were also operating in areas of conflict such as Syria and Iraq. The war in Syria has caused terrible human suffering with over three million refugees.”

Lina Caneva  |  Editor  |  @ProBonoNews

Lina Caneva has been a journalist for more than 35 years. She was the editor of Pro Bono Australia News from when it was founded in 2000 until 2018.

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