Where Do We Go From Here?

Amidst all of the recent ongoing controversy surrounding the charity Console the publication of the Charities Regulator First Statement of Strategy 2016-2018 on 15 July 2016 (the “Statement”) did not attract a lot of attention.

The Statement, which can be found in full on the Charities Regulator’s website www.charitiesregulatoryauthority.ie, details how the Charities Regulator plans to carry out its mandate in the next three years and what its priorities will be during this time.

In the Statement, the Charities Regulator details the following as its four strategic objectives:

  1. Registration and reporting;
  2. Compliance and investigation;
  3. Stakeholder engagement; and
  4. An effective and efficient organisation.

The Statement reiterates that charities must demonstrate high standards of governance and accountability to their donors and beneficiaries, as well as to the wider public.

It would seem clear now more than ever that this creed needs to be followed to try and rebuild confidence in the charities sector. It is also clear that the Charities Regulator, which the Statement says aims to be a modern, robust and nimble regulator, needs to play a key role in the rebuilding process.

Since coming into being back in October 2014, the Charities Regulator has focused on the first strategic objective of registration and reporting in the work it has done to date to establish the charities register.

The second strategic objective of compliance and investigation has now been thrust into the public consciousness following the revelations about Console.

It has been reported that Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald has committed to fast-track the commencement of Part 4 of the Charities Act 2009 which deals with the investigation of affairs of charitable organisations to early September 2016.

The fact that this last major part of the Charities Act 2009 Act to be commenced has been triggered by another controversy, in the same way that the Rehab and CRC scandals a few years back resulted in the Charities Regulator finally being established, is disappointing but probably not unsurprising given our track record in the area.

The bringing into force of Part 4 of the Charities Act 2009, we are told, will allow the Charities Regulator recruit an inspector of charities and specialists. This will hopefully mean that the Charities Regulator will be able to get out in front of issues in the Irish charities sector and deal with these on a proactive basis rather than having to fight a rear guard action.

Every charity in Ireland need to be aware of their obligations under a number of pieces of legislation including the Charities Act 2009, the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 and the Companies Act 2014 to ensure that they can demonstrate the high standards of governance and accountability which the Charities Regulator will be policing.

Most importantly every charity needs to be cognisant of the following fundamental redline issues:

  • The charity must be registered on the charities register.
  • If the charity holds the charitable tax exemption (CHY number) it must have at least three charity trustees which in the case of a company would mean having to have at least three directors.
  • The charity must comply with annual reporting and financial requirements of the Charities Regulatory Authority, the Revenue Commissioners and the Companies Registration Office if a company.
  • Directors or charity trustees cannot be paid.