Charities Act deferred over cost


LEGISLATION THAT would require charities to make their financial information public has been deferred for cost reasons, Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has confirmed.

The Charities Act, providing for the regulation and supervision of the charitable sector, was passed in 2009 but has not been enacted in full. Mr Shatter said the prospect of full implementation was examined in the context of last year’s comprehensive review of expenditure.

“Arising from this review, I took the view that it was not possible to proceed with the full implementation of the Act at this time given the likely scale of the financial and staffing resources implied, and that this should be deferred,” he said.

He was responding to a parliamentary question from his Fine Gael party colleague Derek Keating. The Dublin Mid West TD asked Mr Shatter if he believed it was necessary to amend the Act “to have all charities publish detailed accounts when they are in receipt of money from his department”.

Mr Shatter said various sections of the Act were subject to implementation through commencement orders, and a number of sections had already been commenced. “Those sections that require charities to provide financial information to a new Charities Regulatory Authority, which will in turn make such information available to the public, have not yet been commenced,” he said.

He said his department was examining how the transparency and accountability of the charity sector could be “further enhanced and supported”, pending full implementation of the Act.

He said one initiative supported by his department was the development by the charity sector itself of a set of voluntary codes of practice for fundraising, “of which openness is a core principle”. He would encourage all charities to sign up to and adhere to the codes.

Statutory requirements existed for financial reporting by certain charities, Mr Shatter pointed out.

He said those charities that were companies limited by guarantee were subject to the provisions of company law and were therefore generally required to provide information to the Companies Registration Office, which could be accessed by the public.

He described the Act as providing for “an integrated system of mandatory registration and proportionate regulation and supervision of the charities sector”.

A survey by accountancy firm Grant Thornton last month showed almost one-fifth of charities questioned did not intend to comply with voluntary governance codes in the future.