Burton: Charities regulator must be a priority

Social Protection Minister Joan Burton has called for the establishment of a charities regulator to ensure transparency in the sector following outrage over the Central Remedial Clinic’s (CRC) admission that public donations were used to top-up salaries of nine staff members.

Joan Burton said she was shocked by the “drip feed” of revelations of how well paid executives were in receipt of top-up payments — money that was only raised because of the generosity of the Irish public.

She said the controversy had caused very serious damage to fundraising in the run up to Christmas and called for the Charities Act (2009), which provides for the office of a regulator, to be put into effect within the next six months.

“We need the charities legislation to be enacted. I think it is a priority and should be done as soon as possible, in the first half of next year,” she told the Irish Examiner.

The CEO of children’s charity Barnardos, Fergus Finlay, welcomed the call but said there was no reason why the Charities Regulatory Authority couldn’t be established straight away.

He said there is currently no regulation of charities in Ireland and while some of the larger organisations, including Barnardos, voluntarily adhered to British standards, he said in Ireland top-up payments are permitted within the law and there is no requirement of disclosure.

“I believe charities need to be regulated on a proper firm footing, underpinned by law, with full transparency and a proper code of conduct that people can evaluate,” he said.

Ms Burton said the superb standards of accounting at overseas development charities such as Concern and Trócaire should become the industry standard for the estimated 7,800 charities currently registered in Ireland.

Over 20,000 companies have registered charity accounts with tax authorities here but it is not known how many of them are in operation in Ireland.

The CRC sent shockwaves through the disability sector by admitting that the company’s charitable funds had been used to pay nine staff additional salaries, on top of what they were being paid by the State.

It had previously denied public funds were used for top-ups but last Thursday it admitted the additional payments originated from its charitable arm Friends and Supporters of the CRC.

Those who received payments included the recently retired CEO, Paul Kiely, who received a salary top-up of €116,949, an allowance of €19,016, and a pension contribution of €25,000. This was on top of his HSE-funded salary of €106,900.

In Japan, Taoiseach Enda Kenny stopped short of calling for the 10-strong board to resign but he said the top-up payments were “not acceptable under any circumstances”.

He said donors and collectors “fully expect that the money is still going for children and the facilities that they use”.

The Charities Act was passed through the Dáil in 2009 and one of its main reasons for delay was the cost of setting up the Regulatory Office, with the previous government fearing it would become another quango but some charities have since offered to contribute to the running costs.

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PAC chief 'surprised' by timing of hospital top-ups statementPAC chief 'surprised' by timing of hospital top-ups statement


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