We know most charities do the right thing.
There are more than 59,000 on the ACNC Charity Register and the overwhelming majority meet regulatory requirements.
We devote a lot of resources to providing guidance and education to help organisations understand charity registration requirements, and to help registered charities understand and comply with their obligations.
On occasion, we find instances of charities not meeting requirements, or such instances are raised with us. In 2019-20, we received 2,102 concerns about charities; most were about perceived mismanagement of funds or individuals believed to be obtaining a private benefit from a charity. As the independent regulator a range of options are open to us once it is established there is an issue, however, providing education and support is the foundation of our regulatory approach.
Our approach reflects five key values: fairness, accountability, independence, integrity and respect. Most people involved in charities are honest, act in good faith and try to do the right thing. If mistakes are made, they are usually honest mistakes, or due to a lack of knowledge, expertise or capacity. When things go wrong, it is important for us to consider whether there was an intention to do the wrong thing and whether any of those responsible for the charity, such as committee members, directors, or trustees, knew about, or participated in, improper conduct. We take account of the extent to which a charity co-operates with us as well as the willingness of those responsible to try and remedy the problem.
We may finalise a review or investigation in a number of ways. Where appropriate, we will work with a charity to help it to resolve any issues. We may decide no action is needed, provide regulatory advice or recommend a charity take steps to address issues identified. In some cases, we may require a charity to have its accounts audited or lodge additional reports, refer a concern to another government agency or impose administrative penalties.
Revoking a charity’s registration is the most serious action the ACNC can take. In 2019-20, we finalised 79 investigations, and revoked the registration of 18 charities due to serious and ongoing noncompliance. This means they lost access to charity tax concessions and other benefits.
Generally, we do not publicise whether we are reviewing or investigating a particular charity, unless there are exceptional circumstances. But we will always tell the charity before any compliance information about it is published. If we use a formal power, it will be shown on the charity's page on the ACNC Charity Register. We may also publish statements on the Register if a charity does not meet certain reporting obligations.
Driving our regulatory approach is the object to maintain, protect and enhance public trust and confidence in the Australian charity sector. Our commitment to fairness is demonstrated through our record of compliance decisions. We will act quickly and firmly where there is evidence of serious mismanagement or misappropriation, a serious or deliberate breach of the ACNC Act, or if vulnerable people or significant charitable assets are at risk. However, it is rare that we need to do so.
The Hon Dr Gary Johns