Concerns Raised Over New ACNC Board Appointments
20 November 2017 at 2:28 pm
Three new members have been appointed to the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission’s (ACNC) advisory board, but concerns have been raised in the sector around the lack of clarity with these appointments.
Heather Allan, David Pigott and Heather Watson were announced last Friday as new part-time general members of the board, which functions to provide advice and make recommendations to the ACNC commissioner.
Assistant Minister Michael Sukkar, who was appointed to oversee the ACNC, said he was pleased with these appointments, while also announcing the chair and deputy chair of the board.
“I am pleased to announce the appointment of Ms Heather Allan, Mr David Pigott and Ms Heather Watson as part-time general members of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) Advisory Board for a period of three years,” Sukkar said.
“I am also pleased to announce that Mr Tony Stuart, chief executive officer of UNICEF Australia, has been re-appointed as chair of the advisory board for a further three years. Mr Martin Laverty, current board member and chief executive officer of the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia, has been elevated to the position of deputy chair of the board.
“These new appointments, and those made in August, ensure that the ACNC commissioner has the support of an experienced and skilled board that can provide high quality advice to the benefit of the charities and not-for-profit sectors.”
But David Crosbie, the CEO of the Community Council for Australia (CCA), told Pro Bono News that there was a lack of clarity around the appointment process.
He said he was disappointed that there was no opportunity for sector leaders to put their names forward for the board.
“If the minister [Michael Sukkar] was committed to having the best possible ACNC Advisory Board, why not provide an opportunity for sector leaders and experts with years of experience to put their names forward in a formal process to appoint replacements for those you deem no longer offer the expertise desired?,” Crosbie said.
“CCA has nothing against any of the new appointments to the ACNC Advisory Board. All may well be good people with some knowledge of the sector. All may be known to the minister responsible. But that does not make them the best people to provide advice on sector regulation.
“It is clear that the lack of any process and opportunity for experts and sector leaders to put their names forward has seen a diminution in real expertise on the ACNC Advisory Board.”
While Sukkar declined to comment on the appointment process, Pro Bono News understands the Department of Treasury maintains an active online database for those interested in being considered for appointment on boards within this portfolio.
Crosbie also expressed concern at the loss of experience on the board, due to the departure of Gina Anderson, Professor Myles McGregor-Lowndes and Fiona McLeay.
“Professor Myles McGregor Lowndes [has] over 30 years studying and publishing outstanding academic work on charities… Gina Anderson was not only CEO of Philanthropy Australia for five years, but is also a philanthropy fellow at the Centre for Social Impact… and Fiona McLeay [is] former CEO of Justice Connect and the Public Interest Law Clearing House,” he said.
“To lose these three outstanding sector leaders from the ACNC Advisory Board is very disappointing. It is hard to imagine a more informed and knowledgeable group of people – all in the top tier of experts and thinkers in terms of charity regulation, the law and philanthropy.
“When you add the loss of Robert Fitzgerald AM who conducted the Productivity Commission review of charities and not-for-profits in Australia, there is no doubt the ACNC Advisory Board is now poorer in terms of genuine knowledge of the sector.”
The ACNC is also yet to appoint a new commissioner to replace Susan Pascoe AM, who served as the commissioner since the regulator opened in December 2012.
CCA previously expressed their disappointment that Pascoe was not reappointed for at least another 12 months to oversee the ACNC’s five-year review.
Crosbie said he hoped the replacement process for Pascoe would be better handled than last week’s board announcement.
“CCA hope this approach of dismissing the expertise and input of the sector itself is not a pattern the minister will continue with the appointment of Susan Pascoe’s replacement,” he said.