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Monday 20 November 2017

State-backed charities refuse to reveal chief executive pay

Laura Noonan

Laura Noonan

FOUR charities that share millions of euro in state funding every year have refused to reveal how much their chief executives are paid.

Focus Ireland, Bothar, the ISPCC and Self Help Africa, who receive close to €15m in public money annually, have all refused to divulge the pay packets of their bosses.

And two other charities who don't get any state cash but get tens of millions from the Irish public -- Unicef and the Children's Medical and Research Foundation -- are also refusing to reveal their chiefs' pay.

Their stance is at odds with internationally accepted best practice for the information charities should disclose about their spending.

The six organisations were among 30 canvassed as part of an Irish Independent investigation into how Irish charities are spending cash raised from state funding and public donations.

Our probe revealed that of the 24 charities who did disclose pay, the average chief executive package was around €105,000 a year. The best paid charity boss was Fionnuala O'Donovan of Enable Ireland, who earned €156,240 in 2011.

The revelations come as a leading charity boss yesterday slammed Justice Minister Alan Shatter for failing to introduce an "urgently needed" charities regulator.

Deirdre Garvey of umbrella group The Wheel, representing 900 Irish charities, said her members were "extremely disappointed" that Mr Shatter has "more or less abandoned" the Government's 2009 pledge to set up a regulator.

Environment Minister Phil Hogan also called on his cabinet colleague to "prioritise" the creation of the regulator so there would be "greater transparency" amongst organisations that get hundreds of millions of taxpayer funds.

Ms Garvey and Mr Shatter were speaking at the launch a new corporate governance code for charities, voluntary and community organisations.

The voluntary code includes broad guidelines on "being transparent and accountable", but falls far short of demands in the UK, where standard information on charities' finances is available online at the Charity Commission's website.

Dochas director Hans Zomer, who represents 49 overseas charities, said Ireland was "unique" internationally in not having a charities' regulator, while Mr Hogan said he could see "lots of benefits for everybody" for setting up a regulator.

Speaking after yesterday's event, Mr Hogan also vowed to "have a word with" the Justice Minister about the regulator ahead of the 2013 budget.

Mr Shatter, who has responsibility for charity regulation, has insisted that it would be "too costly" to set up an Irish regulator given the restrictions of the EU/IMF bailout programme.

His department this week admitted there were no estimates for how much the regulator would cost, while sources close to the EU/IMF teams insisted they had "never" discouraged a charities regulator.

The 2009 Charities' Act provides for a fee to be levied on charities to cover the regulator's running costs. The Department of Justice's 2012 budget also includes about €400,000 for charity regulation.

A Department of Justice spokesman said this money was being used to "strengthen the regulation of the charities sector in Ireland pending the establishment of a Charities' Regulator".

In the absence of a regulator, the department is pinning its hopes on voluntary codes -- despite the fact there was a low take up of a previous code for fundraising launched last March.

The spokesman also admitted that "there are no plans" to make the codes compulsory for charities that get their funding from the Department of Justice itself.

Mr Hogan yesterday made it clear that he wanted charities funded through his department to adopt the code, but stopped short of saying it would be compulsory. The State's two other major funders of charities -- the HSE and Irish Aid -- also said that they would not require the charities they fund to comply with the new code.

In the absence of any Irish rules, the UK's Statement of Recommended Practice (SORP) has been adopted by Dochas, an umbrella group for 49 overseas aid charities, and several domestic charities.

Irish Independent

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