Charities Act to be priority for Hogan
MINISTER FOR the Environment and Community Phil Hogan has said he will push for the prioritisation of the Charities Act, which was passed in 2009 but has not been enacted in full.
Last month Minister for Justice Alan Shatter, who has legislative responsibility for the area, confirmed that full implementation of the proposed law that would require charities to make their financial information public has been deferred for cost reasons.
Launching a voluntary governance code produced by the charity sector yesterday, Mr Hogan said he wanted to see greater transparency in the operation of charities and their means of collecting and spending money. He stressed the legislation was Mr Shatter’s responsibility.
“I’ll have a word with him about it and see what we can do. It is a difficult financial situation. It’s going to cost money to implement the rules that have been outlined in the context of the Charities Act, and we’ll see if he can prioritise it a bit more in 2013,” said Mr Hogan.
“The commencement of the Charities Act would help everybody and would give a lot more clearer definition in terms of the rules and regulations that are required to ensure that people know that when they do contribute to a charity that it’s going to where it was actually intended.”
He said the level of governance in the community and voluntary sector was not uniform, and all organisations needed to make better decisions and investments.
“We cannot continue to support organisations which fail to demonstrate good governance or good value for money,” he warned.
Ombudsman and Information Commissioner Emily O’Reilly said the rules of good governance and ethical behaviour applied to small charitable organisations as much as to large banks.
“A charity, a voluntary organisation, a community-based organisation is an organisation just like any other no matter how altruistic its motivation or how much if anything those who work in, and for, that organisation earn,” she said.
Ms O’Reilly said there was growing intolerance of anything less than full accountability of public money. “The day will come when the largely uncritical and undemanding public that contribute to and support your causes will begin to demand a larger say in how you go about your business,” she said.
Chairwoman of the group that developed the code, Deirdre Garvey, urged Mr Hogan to use his influence to ensure the implementation of the Charities Act.
“It’s extremely frustrating . . . to see the implementation of the Charities Act more or less abandoned. And what we need is commencement,” she said.
Addressing Mr Hogan, she said: “We look to you, Minister, to use your influence . . . with the Minister responsible for the Charities Act, Minister Shatter, to convey the absolute importance to our sector of the commencement of the Charities Act.”
Ms Garvey said there was no lack of interest in, or fear of, transparency within the sector.
According to Ms Garvey, 150 organisations have confirmed in writing that they will sign up to the code. She said 60 per cent of money coming into the sector came from various State agencies.
PROPOSED LAW: MAIN POINTS
Understand, declare and manage conflicts of interest and conflicts of loyalties
Ensure appropriate internal financial/management controls
Ensure boards take collective responsibility through meetings that are efficient and effective
Manage, support and hold to account staff and volunteers who act on behalf of the organisation
Enable engagement of those who benefit from the organisation in planning and decision-making.
Be honest, fair and independent
Develop, resource, monitor and evaluate a plan to make sure the organisation achieves its purpose