Charities snowed under by regulations

Diane Colgan and Deirdre Garvey.

Charities are snowed under with increasing reporting requirements and many risk bucking under the pressure, a conference has heard.

The Wheel, an organisation which represents the charities sector, said the administrative burden needs to be eased and that the State, when it is funding charities, should make an additional contribution to the costs of the additional reporting requirements many such groups have taken on in recent years.

The National Summit for the Charity Sector, held at Croke Park, heard of one example from Cope Galway, which had to deal with 17 different entities to comply with reporting and administrative regulations in the course of its work.

Delegates were told that this workload for charities will now only increase due to the requirements to comply with the General Data Protection Regulations, which come into force today.

Deirdre Garvey, chief executive of The Wheel, said:

“Charities are implementing a growing list of reporting requirements from multiple regulators, funders and state bodies. There is excessive duplication between the various reporting processes, and this is adding to the administrative burden on charities.

“We are calling on the Charities Regulator to implement their commitment to promoting an initiative to coordinate and streamline the multiple reports charities have to file with various state bodies, including the Companies Registration Office, the Charities Regulator itself, the Lobbying Regulator, and, for many charities, the HSE, Tusla, and Hiqa.

“Charities welcome regulation and oversight, but these organisations cannot afford valuable public resources on unnecessary form-filling and duplication.”

Ms Garvey referred to a recent survey of 312 charities conducted by The Wheel which found that 62% said their staff were under increased pressure because of the growth in reporting requirements, while 58% said their administrative costs have gone up.

Representatives of The Wheel had earlier appeared before the Oireachtas finance committee on the subject of rising insurance costs, Director of advocacy Ivan Cooper said: “There is always a focus on what charities do, but now there is equal attention on how they do it.”

He said increased regulation was welcome but the intense focus on governance functions did place smaller charities under pressure.

He said there had been consensus at the seminar that there be a streamlining or rationalisation of many of those reporting functions, and that where State funds are provided in the forms of grants for charities to carry out their work, that an extra 10% top-up be provided to help charities meet those reporting and regulatory requirements.

Mr Cooper said there needs to be a move from purely financial accounting when it comes to charities to instead include “outcomes accounting”.

He said there is “far too much accountability upwards”, leading to a culture of fear in public administration and a move away from providing what the funders want and what the people served by the charities want.

He said the charity sector needs to be more proactive in informing the public about the work the various organisations do.

One likely development is the setting up of a financial reporting standard by the Charities Regulator by the end of this year, which Mr Cooper said would lead to more transparency.


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