This Commissioner’s Policy Statement is issued under the authority of the Commissioner and should be read together with the ACNC Policy Framework, which sets out the scope, context and definitions common to our policies.

Policy Statement

  1. This Commissioner’s Policy Statement sets out how the ACNC will handle complaints from the public about charities. The approach to investigating complaints is detailed in the Compliance and Enforcement policy.

Principles

Principle 1: Complaints accepted only if within jurisdiction

  1. The ACNC can only accept complaints about charities registered with the ACNC. The ACNC Register lists all the charities registered with the ACNC (with an exception for charities who have had their information withheld or removed).
  2. The ACNC accepts complaints relating to alleged breaches of the ACNC Act or alleged non-compliance with governance or external conduct standards (when these standards come into effect). Examples include concerns regarding possible illegal activity, activities that are contrary to the purpose of the charity or the alleged diversion of a charity resources for private benefit contrary to the not-for-profit nature of the charity.
  3. In the interests of resolving matters quickly and effectively, members of the public may wish to raise concerns with the charity first. They can then approach the ACNC if the registered charity's response is inadequate and it still does not appear to be complying with the ACNC Act.
  4. The ACNC cannot investigate certain kinds of complaints about charities. These include internal disputes within a charity, such as differences of opinion between board members, or employment issues. The ACNC does not investigate issues relating to service quality but may refer complainants to the appropriate government agency.

Principle 2: Complainant’s identifying information protected

  1. The ACNC will accept anonymous complaints and understands that in some cases this may be appropriate. However, our ability to investigate a complaint relies on the quality of information we can access, including from complainants.
  2. A complaint, the personal information of a complainant, and any details relating to the charity are ‘protected ACNC information’ under Division 150 of the ACNC Act. The ACNC is generally prohibited from using or disclosing such information. However, the ACNC may use or disclose protected ACNC information:
  • in the performance of duties under the ACNC Act
  • for the purpose of including the information on the ACNC Register under Division 40 (and, if the information is personal information, to achieve the objects of the ACNC Act)
  • to Australian government agencies (including State or Territory agencies) to enable or assist them to perform their functions or exercise their powers, and the disclosure is reasonably necessary to promote the objects of the ACNC Act
  • with the consent of the person or organisation which the information is about, or
  • the information has already been lawfully made available to the public and the disclosure is for the purposes of the ACNC Act.
  1. Information obtained by the ACNC is also generally regulated by the laws relating to freedom of information and privacy. The ACNC’s approach to these laws is set out in its Freedom of Information policy and its Privacy policy.
  2. In accordance with the ACNC Act, if complainants identify themselves when making a complaint, the ACNC will generally ask for consent before disclosing this information to anyone outside the ACNC.
  3. ACNC staff will record the name of the charity and the nature of the complaint in our database. This information will be available only to ACNC staff and will be used or disclosed in order to perform our duties under the Act. The information may be disclosed to another Australian government agency in accordance with the ACNC Act and in line with the Compliance and Enforcement policy.

Principle 3: Complainant’s further assistance to be informed and voluntary

  1. If the ACNC investigates a complaint, the ACNC may contact the complainant to further its investigation. In this case, we will give the complainant information about what steps to take, their rights and possible consequences of helping us. The complainant may choose not to be involved further.

Principle 4: Decision to investigate based on evidence and risk

  1. Members of the public can raise a concern about a charity by filling in Form 6A: Raise a concern about a charity or by calling us. We may ask complainants to provide further information. We will acknowledge complaints within two business days. We will assess each complaint on its merits and consider a range of factors such as the source of the information (including the complainant's relationship to the organisation), the nature of the complaint and any evidence or information that supports the complaint.
  2. The decision to investigate a charity will be determined in accordance with the ACNC's Regulatory Approach Statement and Compliance and Enforcement policy. The decision will be made in accordance with the Decision-making policy.
  3. The ACNC Act prevents us from telling the complainant about what, if any, response ACNC decides to take in relation to a complaint made. If we do investigate a charity, investigations will generally be completed within 6 months. We make our actions public only when they lead to the charity being:
  • Revoked
  • Warned
  • Issued an enforceable undertaking
  • Issued directions.

References

Version Date of effect Brief summary of change
Version 1 – Initial policy 03/12/2012 Initial policy endorsed by the Commissioner on 06/12/2012.
Version 2 – Revised policy 10/10/2016 Policy revised to clarify what information the ACNC may disclose to complainants, and other minor updates.