Minister for Justice Alan Shatter recently announced that the long-awaited Charities Regulatory Authority will come into force in 2014.
The Charities Act was first passed in 2009. However the Charities Regulatory Authority which constituted a key part of the legislation remained dormant due to insufficient resources. In 2012, Mr Shatter had stated that he was deferring full implementation of the Act due to the “likely scale of the financial and staffing resources implied.”
The new regulatory landscape is finally on the horizon and as of next year, Charities will be required to adhere to a number of new requirements including the submission of an Annual Activity Report. Under the new legislation, charities will also be required to pay an annual fee for registering with the regulator.
In return, the main functions of the new body will be to: maintain a publically available register of charities, monitor and ensure compliance and provide guidelines and codes of conduct. The regulator will also have powers to carry out investigations and impose penalties for offences.
For the first time, members of the public will have access to comprehensive information on the activities of Ireland’s charities, including how they use their funds.
“Charities are doing excellent work and the public need to see that” says Deirdre Garvey, CEO of The Wheel. “And the new regulator is an independent way of demonstrating to the public the excellent work that charities are doing.”
“Most charities will find that there isn’t as much to do as they may fear. To prepare for the regulator I would suggest that for charities who haven’t done so already, the adoption of the Governance Code is key. Once you’ve adopted the Code, adhering to the new regulatory requirements will be a piece of cake.”
In a recent Irish Times article, Business columnist Dominic Coyle argued that limited buy-in to the voluntary codes of practice demonstrated that there wasn’t a genuine hunger in the sector for regulation. “The sector has been pushing the government for many years to bring in a regulatory body” counters Ms Garvey. “There is no resistance, the sector wants it.”
In light of Minister Shatter’s previous deferral of the Act, will the Government now have the resources to run an effective regulatory body? Ms Garvey is uncertain.
“It remains to be seen. We know that they are committed but I think it’s a case of watch this space.”