Regulator’s concerns about Northern Ireland charities

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The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland has published its latest report detailing some of the common concerns it has received about charities in Northern Ireland.

The report ‘Lessons learned: Focus on charity trustees ’, available now on the website www.charitycommissionni.org.uk, is the latest in a series of publications focusing on good governance issues in charities.

Myles McKeown, the Commission’s Head of Compliance and Enquiries, explained: “Being a charity trustee is a rewarding but also a responsible role and it’s important trustees understand their obligations to the charity and under the law.

“Reports such as this provide an overview of some of the common concerns we receive, including guidance on how to resolve them and, preferably, how to avoid making the same mistakes in your charity.

“I would encourage all trustees to make good use of the report to help ensure their charity is in good governance – while we can step in to help put things right, prevention remains the best cure.”

The report provides an overview of four key concern themes, each one with a specific focus on charity trustees – the people who are legally responsible for the control and governance of a charity. The themes covered include ensuring your charity has sufficient trustee numbers, with one single person not dominant, as well as looking at longevity of trustees, the criteria for trusteeship and adherence to governing documents.

In addition, the report provides confidential case studies based on concerns the Commission has received, providing a deeper understanding of the strong powers the Commission has when taking remedial or protective action to resolve mismanagement or misconduct within charities.

Mr McKeown continued: “At the heart of all effective charities is good governance and, as well as ensuring they are complying with the law, all charities should ensure they are adhering to their governing document and both know, and are working to achieve, their charitable purposes.

“In fact compulsory charity registration, which is now ongoing, provides an ideal opportunity for charities to review their governing documents to ensure they are up to date and meeting the requirements of charity law.

“The people of Northern Ireland are generous, supporting local charities with their time, skills and money, and trustees can repay that confidence by ensuring their charity is open, accountable and well run.”

As of December 15, 2014, the Commission had received almost 370 concerns about charities since gaining its powers of investigation in February 2011, of which almost 320 have been concluded.

Each concern the Commission receives is assessed, which allows the Commission to decide the best course of action to take based on the evidence available and the level of risk involved.