Sunday 25 September 2016

Charities watchdog gets new probe power

Published 06/09/2016 | 02:30

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald. Photo: Tom Burke
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald. Photo: Tom Burke

The charities watchdog is finally able to investigate charitable organisations and seek to remove trustees or staff members if necessary.

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New powers for the Charities Regulator kicked in yesterday - almost two years after it was set up.

The powers were triggered by Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald after it emerged the watchdog was limited in what it could do in response to allegations of financial misconduct by suicide bereavement charity's Console's chief executive Paul Kelly. The regulator was left largely toothless because a key part of the Charities Act 2009, under which it was set up, had not been commenced.

Charities Regulator chief executive John Farrelly said the watchdog would now be able to impose sanctions if a charity breached certain obligations - such as the requirement to keep proper accounts or to submit its annual report.

It can also now apply to the High Court to suspend or remove charity trustees or staff members and prohibit the removal or sale of charity property if it satisfies the High Court that charity property is being misused or that there has been misconduct or mismanagement of a charity's affairs.

Mr Farrelly said the enactment of the new powers was "a very positive and welcome step for charity regulation in Ireland".

He added: "The powers it confers will allow the regulator to take steps to ensure that charitable organisations are protected and well managed.

"Where breaches of the act are suspected the regulator can now work proactively to prevent and counter mismanagement and protect charitable organisations.

"These powers will be applied in a proportionate and fair manner, recognising that the majority of charities require support rather than enforcement."

The regulator reported Console to the Director of Corporate Enforcement following financial revelations in June.

The charity is now in liquidation.

Irish Independent

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