This Procedure is issued under Complaints about Charities Policy CPS 2012/06.

Introduction

1. This procedure sets out the way the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) will deal with complaints from members of the public and other stakeholders about registered charities.

2. The procedure also covers out-of-jurisdiction complaints. Such complaints might include concerns about the broader Not-for-profit (NFP) reforms or complaints about charities not registered with the ACNC.

3. This procedure does not cover complaints about ACNC processes, staff or resources. This will be covered by the ‘Procedure for Handling Complaints and Compliments about the ACNC’. Similarly, this procedure does not cover complaints regarding ACNC decisions, for example, a customer calling because they are unhappy with a decision the ACNC has made about their charity. This is covered by ‘Procedure for Review of ACNC Decisions’.

Procedure

Responsibilities

4. Advice Services is responsible for:

  • receiving feedback, concerns or complaints from the public, charities and other agencies
  • acknowledging the receipt of this information
  • initial triage of the complaint, and
  • assigning the complaint to the relevant ACNC team.

5. Compliance is responsible for:

  • contacting the complainant to obtain additional information or context
  • contacting the complainant to advise them that either
    • their complaint falls outside ACNC jurisdiction and no further action will be taken (but the matter may be referred to a more appropriate agency, if applicable), or
    • their complaint falls within ACNC jurisdiction and the ACNC will proceed with the matter in accordance with its operational procedure for evaluation and risk assessment
  • evaluating and assessing the matter of concern and taking action when it is appropriate to do so.

Advice Services Procedure

6. When a complaint about a registered charity is received, Advice Service will determine if the complaint is within ACNC jurisdiction. In cases where jurisdiction is unclear, the complaint will be referred to Compliance.

7. The following are examples of allegations the ACNC can review:

  • A charity is not complying with the ACNC Act
  • A charity is being used for private advantage
  • Beneficiaries are at risk
  • A charity is involved in serious illegal activity, e.g. fraud or other criminal behaviour
  • A charity is a sham or has purposes which are non-charitable or unlawful.

8. Not all complaints about a charity will fall within ACNC jurisdiction. The following are examples of charity complaints that the ACNC cannot investigate:

  • Employment issues, e.g. unfair dismissal
  • Fundraising methods used by charities
  • Quality of services provided by charities
  • Internal disputes including policies or decisions that the board have made that are within their powers
  • Contracts that the charity has with other organisations.

9. If a complaint is received about an organisation that is not a registered charity, the ACNC officer will explain that the ACNC only registers and regulates charities. The ACNC officer will then refer the customer to the relevant authority.

Compliance procedure

10. If the complainant has not chosen to be anonymous, the ACNC may contact the complainant during the evaluation stage of its compliance activity if more information is required. However, the ACNC may decide not to do this if there is good reason not to make contact.

11. The ACNC may also contact the complainant during the risk assessment stage of its compliance activity if more information is required and further contact is appropriate.

12. The ACNC will only discuss with the complainant the information provided by the complainant, information in the public domain or ask for additional information that may support their complaint. The officer will not discuss details relating to the proposed action or outcomes.

13. The ACNC will evaluate and risk-assess the matter of concern following the procedures outlined in Operational Procedure – Evaluation and Risk Assessment.

14. If the matter relates to a serious breach and an investigation takes place, the ACNC may use its enforcement powers. In these circumstances the complainant may be asked to provide a formal witness statement. More information about investigations is provided in Operational Procedure – Investigations.

Progress of complaints

15. ACNC officers will inform all complainants that the ACNC will not provide information about the progress of complaints, or about any action taken by the ACNC in response to a complaint.

References

ACNC Statement: Regulatory Approach
Commissioner’s Policy Statement: Complaints about charities
Compliance and enforcement operational procedure: Evaluation and risk assessment
Compliance and enforcement operational procedure: Compliance reviews
Compliance and enforcement operational procedure: Investigations

VersionDate of effectBrief summary of change
Version 1 - Initial policy9 December 2013Initial Operational Procedure endorsed by the ACNC Executive on 9 December 2013.