Charities forced to open their books to scrutiny
The Adelaide Advertiser
via The Australian
November 26, 2010
CHARITIES will be forced to publicise how donated funds are being spent as part of a radical shake-up of the sector being announced today.
Under the new regulations, donors will be able to check how much of their donation is going towards wages and administration.
Gambling Minister Tom Koutsantonis said the new Code of Practice would ensure greater integrity and disclosure among charities.
"The majority of charities, and the thousands of volunteers and workers who support them, do the right thing; but this Government is determined to stamp out any dodgy practices," he said.
The Code of Practice will force the publication of fund details on the Government's charities website, restrict hours for door-knocking for collections and better regulate contract terms for ongoing donations.
"Potential donors can arm themselves with this information so that they can make an informed choice before parting with their hard earned dollars," Mr Koutsantonis said.
Changes to ongoing donations will include a mandatory 10-day cooling off period or allowing donors to end the agreement at any time
Hours for collection will also be restricted, with collection on Easter Sunday, Good Friday or Christmas Day prohibited, except for donations made over the Internet.
Collectors will be required to wear a standardised identification badge inscribed with the name, contact details and licence number of the charity, the name of the collector and information about the SA Government charities website and advice line.
"Charities that do the right thing have nothing to worry about," Mr Koutsantonis said.
Interstate charities would not be subject to the new code, however.
"Each jurisdiction has its own regulations - unless interstate and international charities are the holder of a section 6a licence or section 7 licence, they will not be affected," he said.
"In the longer term, the Government will be working with other states and territories on a nationally consistent regime of fundraising regulations."
Philanthropy Australia spokesperson Vanessa Meachen said the changes would help reassure the public that donated funds were being spent appropriately.
"This is part of a wider move on behalf of governments in general, to try to harmonise the sector and make it more effective," she said.
Consumer group Choice spokesman Christopher Zinn said there was a need for better disclosure in the sector.
"The problem with charities is it is very hard to compare one with another, because they all use different accounting measures," he said.
"I think added disclosure should benefit the more efficient charities and drive efficiencies in the sector."
Mr Koutsantonis said he would write to each South Australian charity about the final draft Code of Practice, which will be subject to consultation until mid-January.
The new Code can be viewed on the charities website at www.charities.sa.gov.au.
Several South Australian charities have in the past refused to show The Advertiser their financial details.
The charities include the high-profile Queen Elizabeth Hospital Research Foundation and the former McGuinness McDermott Foundation.
Records obtained by the newspaper for the 2004 and 2005 financial years showed less than 20c in the dollar raised by the QEHRF went to research funding.
The Advertiser has also revealed that Adelaide charity the National Cancer Research Foundation donated less than one cent in every dollar to its intended cause one year, and that Anglicare has examined how it could transfer donated funds to the church for sexual abuse compensation.
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