Welcoming the Code of Governance, Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Phil Hogan said: “Now more than ever we all need to demonstrate to the public that we are delivering on goals for the public’s very scarce resources. It does not matter whether you are a Philanthropic organisation, a Community and Voluntary organisation or a Government Department, we all need to make better decisions, better investments and we need to demonstrate the impact and benefits of these investments.”

“In the current economic climate, good governance is more important than ever in order to rebuild confidence, clarify roles, duties and responsibilities of all those who sit on boards including committees of community and voluntary organisations” said Mr. Hogan.

Reiterating a previous caution to the sector, the Minister stated that the government would only support community and voluntary organisations that are demonstrating good governance: “The Government will continue to assist organisations to discharge their governance duties but it cannot continue to support organisations which fail to demonstrate good governance or who fail to demonstrate value for money.”

“I would, therefore, encourage all community and voluntary organisations to adopt ‘The Code of Governance’ which will provide them with a benchmark against which they can measure their performance” the Minister said.

Keynote speaker Emily O’Reilly, Ombudsman Commissioner noted that due to the voluntary nature of the Code, its success will be depend on the extent to which it is adopted and implemented by the sector. In the absence of regulatory legislation Ms O’Reilly said that the sector must take responsibility for its governance standards, “it is open to every single organisation to raise their own Governance bar, legislation or no legislation, and to take steps to show the public that what they do is effective, transparent, and that best practice applies to every element of the way in which they do their business.”

“Good governance preserves and protects good reputations. Every single thing you do in your work – from the quality of your volunteers or paid staff, to the manner in which you fundraise – has the potential to enhance or to damage your reputation, and if that reputation begins to slide, then you will be guilty of abdication from your role as moral leaders and of damaging the interests that you serve.” She said.

Touching on a theme central to all speakers of the day, Ms O’Reilly referenced the bad practices across public, private and political spheres and the ensuing economic collapse to demonstrate the importance of good governance. “[It] has demonstrated that good governance is not some sort of mildly irritating optional extra in the conduct of our public affairs, but is rather the pivot around which everything turns and which ultimately determines the success or failure of our enterprises – our business enterprises, our political enterprises and in the context of what we are here about today, our voluntary and charitable enterprises.

Lambasting the banking sector, Ms O’Reilly scorned, “your are bankers, not property speculators, not trailblazing risk takers in dodgy markets, not irresponsible incentivisers of your top brass, not competitors in some supercharged alpha male financial beauty contest.”

Michael Kelly, Chair of the Corporate Governance Association of Ireland, congratulated the sector on what he termed a “very positive initiative.” “Your approach fits unquestionably into the category of ‘best international practice’. This commendation is true not just of the content of the code itself but also applies to the well thought out and highly participative process supporting its development, dissemination and now implementation” he said.

Whilst Mr Kelly applauded the Code, he cautioned that although it is a good start, the sector must continue to take steps to uphold and strengthen governance standards in addition to it implementation. “Having a code is just one part of the solution. Living the code is what makes the difference and there are things each organisation can do to support this.” Mr. Kelly suggested four key areas which would reinforce the Code. “These four attributes are respectively concerned with: getting the board right taking personal responsibility, a mindset of continuous improvement; and openness to independent assessment.”

The Governance Code was launched by Minister Phil Hogan on the 28th of June 2012 in the Mansion House Dublin 2. Already over 150 charities have committed to adopting the Code. Boardmatch Ireland will be providing a range of training and support services to assist those implementing the Code. Please contact Eva Gurn our Corporate Services Officer at eva@boardmatchireland.ie or call the office on 01 671 5005 for more information.