The Senate Economic Legislation Committee’s hearing into the ACNC Repeal Bill (No 1) was held on Friday 23 May. The committee heard from 12 organisations or individuals, including the Community Council for Australia, Universities Australia, the ACT Government, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, the Department of Social Services (DSS) and the ACNC. A full transcript of the hearing is available on Hansard.
Since the hearing, the ACNC has submitted a supplementary submission to answer questions on notice from the committee and to correct key factual errors in the statements made at the hearings and in some of the submissions.
More than 150 submissions to the committee have been published on the Parliament of Australia website to date. There is a range of analyses publicly available detailing the arguments and issues put forward in the submissions, and perhaps one of the most comprehensive is from social impact analyst Emma Tomkinson.
The DSS officers did confirm “until the second bill receives royal assent, the ACNC is empowered by legislation to continue its functions, and the Commissioner and the Board to retain their powers.” This has implications for charities in relation to regulatory and reporting requirements.
The ACNC is scheduled to appear before the committee again this Thursday for the Senate Budget Estimates hearing. As detailed in my last column, the ACNC’s full allocation of funding in the Forward Estimates was retained for 2014-15 in the Treasury papers.
Annual Information Statements are due
It is pleasing to see the number of registered charities who are contributing to the building of a comprehensive, credible national charity register by submitting their 2013 Annual Information Statement. Last week, the ACNC received more than 1000 Annual Information Statements, and the total number of statements now received has now reached 30,000.
Many charities who have submitted their statements have told us it has been quick and easy to complete. One of the concerns we all share is the impact on small charities. It is noteworthy that two such bodies noted the benefits and the ease of completion in their submissions to the Senate Inquiry into the ACNC Repeal Act
“The introduction of the ACNC and in particular the Annual Information Statement (AIS) has significantly reduced this workload on the Fielding Foundation – thereby making it easier to identify and donate to well performing and transparent charities.” - Fielding Foundation
“The reporting requirements of the ACNC emphasise good governance and make it easier for our affiliates to comply with legislation…As a matter of interest we asked the treasurer of one of our affiliates how much work was involved completing the annual information statement for the ACNC. His reply was that it was less than 15 minutes work.” - Western Australian Council of State School Organisations
We hope that such accounts will encourage those small and larger charities who are yet to report. It is a legal requirement that all registered charities submit an annual statement, and consistent with the ACNC regulatory approach, charities who have missed their reporting deadlines will receive final reminders prior to any penalties (under the ACNC Act) being applied.
You can submit the 2013 Annual Information Statement and read our related guidance and frequently asked questions at acnc.gov.au/2013AIS. For additional advice you call us on 13 22 62 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact details on the ACNC Register – new information being published
The ACNC Register contains important information about all registered charities. There are limited circumstances where the ACNC may withhold information from the Register, for example where this presents a risk to public safety, or is commercially sensitive and harmful.
Previously, information that had not been verified by charities was not visible on the ACNC Register. This was to give charities the opportunity to give us up-to-date details and to apply for information to be withheld. The details are being published in a phased approach to allow identified high-risk charities more time to apply for their information to be withheld.
Over the coming weeks, many charities identified as low-risk charities will have additional details (including their addresses) published on the ACNC Register, unless they have applied to have them withheld. The decision whether to publish or withhold this information is based on how likely the information meets the criteria for withholding it. This is consistent with the requirements of ACNC Act.
The ACNC wants to make sure that charities who work with people at risk (and any others that meet the criteria) apply to withhold their information before this process begins. For charities that have already verified their details with us, the information is published on Register.
More information on withholding information from the ACNC Register and instructions on how to apply is available on our website.
Susan Pascoe AM
Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission
Our phone number is 13 ACNC (13 22 62) or you can email us at email@example.com.
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