Work on a “comprehensive” charity register will begin in mid 2014 while charities will be required to provide financial reports from early 2015 onwards, Ireland’s designate charity regulator has said.
Una Ni Dhubhghaill, the interim chief executive of the Charity Regulatory Authority, which will be formally established later this year, said her office was "part of the jigsaw" for the rebuilding of trust in the sector.
She said work on an online register of charities would begin in mid-2014 and that charities with CHY number (those with a charitable tax exemption), can be expected to be contacted by the regulator by Autumn. Other charities will be approached thereafter.
Ms Ni Dhubhghaill said the register, which it is hoped will be published in early 2015, would be the “core building block to this increase in transparency and accountability” at the heart of the Charities Act.
Once the register is published “reporting obligations under the Charities Act will kick in for all registered charities,” she said, adding that a financial reporting framework would be developed in the interim in consultation with the charity sector.
Addressing over 200 attendees at a national conference on the charity sector in Ireland Ms Ni Dhubhghaill said the online register would provide public access to “more, better and more relevant financial information” on charities.
The Wheel, an umbrella organisation representing 950 charities, which organised the conference yesterday released results of an online survey showing that that 61 per cent of the 297 charities surveyed said their fundraising had been affected by negative publicity surrounding the CRC and Rehab controversies.
Almost half reporting a drop in fundraising of up to 10 per cent since November 2013 while 36 per cent said they had cut back or suspended services in the past year despite an increase on demand for services.
The Wheel's chief executive Deirdre Garvey said the "acute public trust crisis" caused by the controversies had affected the whole sector at a time when they were still dealing with an impact on funding caused by the recession.
Ms Garvey called for “appropriate provision” for increased funding for the charity regulator’s office next year to give effect to the phased work of the office to ensure the timely progression of its work.
Similarly the director of Dóchas, Hans Zomer said the regulatory authority “needs to be resourced properly”.
“The mandate of the office of the regulator is enormous...we’re talking about 8,000 charities potentially at least if not more so that it is a really big task that needs to be resourced now and in the future,” he said.
In a session on transparency and accountability, Ivan Cooper, director of advocacy with the Wheel said “ultimately we need to shift from a dominant culture of privacy that has prevailed in so many dimensions of Irish life”.
“The default position for a private firm is one of privacy; the default for our organisations needs to be as much transparency and openness as is possible that is commensurate with our being able to function effectively”.