New authority to regulate charities

Agency to ensure transparency in sector will come into operation in 2014

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter: said charities played a vital role in the economy and in society. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter: said charities played a vital role in the economy and in society. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

Wed, Jul 10, 2013, 19:17

The establishment of a Charities Regulatory Authority has been announced.

The news was welcomed by charities, with the Wheel, am umbrella and advocacy group for 900 charities, saying it was “delighted” with today’s announcement by Minister for Justice Alan Shatter.

The new authority, which will regulate and ensure transparency in the charity sector, will come into operation in 2014. The sector has been calling for such an authority for the past six years.

Ivan Cooper, director of advocacy with the Wheel, said it was good news for both the public and charities.

“When the regulator is established, members of the public will for the first time have access to comprehensive information on the activities of all of Ireland’s 8,000 charities, including how they use their funds. Charities will themselves enjoy clarity on what the requirement are in relation to governance standards, fundraising practices and reporting requirements.”

Hans Zomer, Director of Dóchas, the Irish Association of Development NGOs, also welcomed the move. He said the sector was one of the most trusted in the State. “We, therefore, have a responsibility to ensure that the work we do is well managed and effective. Transparency, accountability, and regulation are vital to any healthy institution. In the charity sector, they are all the more important.

He said it was an opportunity to “strengthen the sector and reinforce the critical” role it played in society.

Among the functions of the new authority, as outlined by the Department of Justice, will be the establishment and maintainance of a register of charitable organisations; ensuring accountability to donors and the public; the carrying out of investigations when required under the 2009 Charities Act, and, ensuring compliance by charitable organisations with their own rules.

Mr Shatter said charities played a vital role in the economy and in society.

“It is important that we put in place a system of regulation that supports them in playing that role as effectively as possible, and enhances the public trust and confidence on which all charities depend. The Charities Act is the basis for this and so I am pleased today to reaffirm the Government’s commitment to its implementation and give an indication of the timeframe in which we expect to achieve this.

“Transparency, accountability and good governance are at the heart of the Charities Act. Members of the public quite rightly want to have confidence that their donations to charity are being used as they intended. There is much that charities themselves can do to instil this confidence. I encourage all charities to be proactive in this, not least because in doing so they can ensure that they are well placed to meet the requirements of the 2009 Act as they are phased in over the coming years.”

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