Numbers contacting watchdog over conduct of charities trebled last year

The number of people reporting concerns about the conduct of charities to the sector’s watchdog more than trebled last year.

A total of 317 individuals contacted the Charities Regulator in 2016 to voice concern that charities were not complying with legislation governing charitable organisations. The concerns related to 223 charities.

The annual report of the regulator reveals that almost 40% of all reports it received last year related to concerns about financial mismanagement by a charity. Just under a quarter of the total questioned whether an organisation was a bona fide charity.

One charity was the subject of 126 individual concerns, while 11 unregistered organisations operating as “charity shops” were the subject of concern.

Follow-up action resulted in the criminal prosecution of one shop owner, while two other shops closed on receipt of “cease and desist” letters from the regulator.

Two other shops removed references to “charity” from their business, while the remainder remained under investigation at the end of 2016.

On foot of any concerns raised by members of the public, the regulator will examine the information provided, conduct a risk assessment and, if warranted, seek assurances or information from the charity in question. If still dissatisfied, the regulator can make directions, impose sanctions or appoint inspectors to investigate the affairs of the charity.

The annual report also reveals that more than half of all registered charities in Ireland recorded income in excess of €100,000 last year.

New figures by the Charities Regulator show that 2,810 charities which have completed their details on the new public register had a six-figure income in 2016. However, 639 charities reported having income of under €10,000 for the year.

Chief executive of the Charities Regulator, John Farrelly, said it was clear from their engagement with thousands of trustees, staff, donors and the public that there was a shared, strong desire to support sustainable vibrant charities.

However, he added: “It is also clear that there is no tolerance for charities which are not transparent, open and in compliance with the law.”

To date more than 700 charities have been removed from the register over their failure to comply with strict new rules governing the sector. Around 2,700 organisations currently registered as a charity are coming under close scrutiny by the regulator.

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