Tuesday 12 November 2019.
The Charities Regulator welcomes the publication of Indecon’s Report into the Potential for a ‘Charity Passport’ Facility for Charity Data in Ireland. The research was commissioned by the Charities Regulator further to recommendations set out in the Report of the Consultative Panel on the Governance of Charitable Organisations (April 2018). The proposed facility would comprise a central database from charities which could then be gleaned from by relevant and appropriate bodies. Recommendation 6 of the Consultative Panel’s Report provided that, as the Charities Regulator was considered best placed to lead efforts in reducing and streamlining the administrative burden faced by many charities and their trustees it “… should promote efforts to streamline compliance and reporting duplication between State bodies.” The Consultative Panel also suggested that when considering the matter, the Charities Regulator could consider models developed in other jurisdictions and notably the ‘report-once, use often’ central system model as used by the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC), known as the ‘charity passport’ scheme.
The comprehensive independent study carried out by Indecon involved engagement with 41 stakeholder organisations and a survey of nearly 1,000 charities.
Key findings from Indecon’s ‘Report on the Potential for a Charity Passport Facility for Charity Data’ included the following:
- The Australian Charity Passport Scheme is in effect a centralised database, which contains information largely similar to what is already available on the Charities Regulator’s Register of Charities.
- There is a significant cost for some charities in meeting the information requirements of funders and other agencies in Ireland.
- None of the countries reviewed by Indecon have implemented a ‘Comprehensive Government Compliance Passport’ scheme, which has removed the need for charities to bilaterally submit other information to regulators and funders.
- A comprehensive Government Compliance Passport would be technically feasible in Ireland but the merits of proceeding with this would be dependent on establishing a whole-of-government approach to governance reporting. Simply sharing access to existing centralised data would not remove multiple reporting requirements.
Based on its findings, Indecon makes the following recommendations as to how some of the issues highlighted in the report might best be addressed:
- Individual funding and regulatory agencies should review their current reporting requirements.
- A ‘Forum of Funders/Regulators’ should be established to help coordinate reporting requirements, and identify areas where information requests could be streamlined.
- Funding agencies should consider including an allowance for the cost of reporting by charities in making funding decisions.
- If a decision is made to proceed with a comprehensive Government Compliance Passport, careful consideration needs to be given to ensuring that this is done in a way, which maximises take-up and use.
Commenting on the Indecon Report, the Charities Regulator’s CEO, Helen Martin said, “The research and associated findings set out in the Report, acknowledge the reporting burden faced by charities in Ireland today and provide a focus for future discussions between Government Departments, funders, regulators and the charities sector in terms of streamlining reporting requirements .”
Ms Martin added, “While the Report acknowledges the need for a whole-of-government approach to governance reporting, the Charities Regulator will continue to work with all stakeholders to ensure that the data it collects from charities is proportionate and published in a format that is capable of being used by the public and other interested parties”.
“We are keen to maximise the information that is publicly available regarding Irish registered charities and see financial information as being key to greater transparency and accountability in the sector”, Ms. Martin said. “As noted by Indecon in its Report, amendments to the Charities Act 2009 are required in order to facilitate the kind of financial reporting and associated transparency that is required in the sector. The Charities Regulator will continue to work with the Minister for Rural and Community Development and his officials to support the advancement of the required amendments.”