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Charities Regulator Annual Report

    General Sector Overview 

    The Regulator has 4 main strategic priorities which are aligned with the registration of charities and the ongoing areas of monitoring, compliance, enforcement and communication and engagement both with members of the public and charity trustees. Some interesting observations from the annual report in relation to the sector include the following:

    • Almost half of all charities registered in the state have opted to use an incorporated company as their legal structure. This indicates that trustees are familiar with the benefits and advantages of protecting the charity from adverse loss events through the protections of legal limited liability 
    • Some 75% of charities have filed their annual returns to the regulator on time in 2019. This has increased from 70% in 2018. Unlike with the Companies Office where there is a penalty for late filing, the Charity Regulator does not impose a penalty. This positive increase shows an increased awareness of Charities legal obligations 
    • 15% of charities are run with no volunteers and 43% of charities are run with no employees. This indicates the high level of reliance placed on trustees to not only have governance oversight of the charities but to manage the day to day operations also. It is vital that if the 10,000 charities operating in Ireland are to continue providing the good work they do then more volunteers are needed
    • During 2019, 521 organisations had 649 individual concerns raised against them. The majority of these concerns (46%) related to the legitimacy of the charity, governance issues and financial control and transparency. It is positive to note that concerns raised by the public are down 5% on the previous year indicating that the sector is doing more to ensure transparency and being clear about its charitable purpose

    The role of the Regulator 

    There were many personnel changes within the Regulators office during 2019, including the appointment of a new CEO, Head of Compliance and Enforcement, Head of Registration and Projects, Head of Communications and Stakeholder engagement and a Finance Manager. Despite these significant changes, the Regulator has done much to ensure that its strategic objectives continue to be met including:

    • The launch of the Governance Code in November 2018. 2019 was very much a year of learning as many charities embarked on the journey to adopt the code and become compliant for the first time. The Regulator has assisted the sector with the publication of the Governance Code toolkit which includes information such as sample compliance record forms, details on the roles and responsibilities of trustees, sample minutes and agendas, template risk registers all of which will be of significant benefit to those charities which are finding it a challenge to implement the code 
    • The Regulator undertook a number of stakeholder engagement events including:
      • Meet the regulator events in Waterford, Athlone, Donegal, Cork, Limerick and Dublin
      • The publishing of 18 press releases to keep the public informed of specific announcements including a campaign in conjunction with the Gardaí in relation to bogus house to house collections
      • The publication of 4 E-Zines delivered to 20,000 subscribers to keep charities and members of the public up to date
    • Charities Trustee Week in November 2019 celebrated the work of trustees, highlighted the importance of good governance and the need for new trustees and to create a greater public awareness of what trustees do
    • Continuing its work to strengthen public trust and confidence with the commissioning of Indecon to carry out research into the potential for Ireland to have a centralised database to streamline compliance and reporting obligations between state bodies by reference to models developed in other jurisdictions. This most notably is the “report once, use often” system used in Australia. This study was published in November 2019 and outlines a number of key findings and recommendations

    Conclusion 

    The Charities Regulator is a relatively small organisation with just 38 members of staff. It is run by a Board of 12 members which has established 4 committees to oversee its work. 2019 was a busy year for the Regulator and a lot has been achieved in increasing public awareness of the sector, the role that Trustees play and assisting those trustees fulfill their roles and responsibilities.

    The full annual report is available HERE.

    Should you wish to discuss any aspect of the annual report or if we can assist you in any way, please contact:

    Ronan Kilbane, Audit & Business Advisory Partner   E: rkilbane@rbk.ie

    Michelle O'Donoghue, Audit & Business Advisory Director   E: modonoghue@rbk.ie

    Evelyn Smyth, Senior Manager   E: esmyth@rbk.ie

Ronan Kilbane

Audit & Business Advisory Partner

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