Northern Ireland

NI Charity Commission wants more clarity on how donations are spent

The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland logo
Image caption The Northern Ireland Charity Commission was set up two years ago.

The Northern Ireland Charity Commission set up two years ago is still unable to force local charities to register their details.

The commission is concerned at the way the legislation has been framed.

It means it is still unable to show the public how their donations are being spent.

The commission has said this has not affected its ability to carry out investigations into charities.

The registration process hopes to create the first comprehensive register of charities for Northern Ireland.

This will bring about greater transparency to the charity sector and allow the public to examine accounts to see where exactly money is being spent and who the trustees are.

Most charities already make this information available in their annual reports and it is often found on their websites.

However, the public does not have the right to see their accounts unless the charity agrees to show them.

According to the commission's annual report, the legislation which is supposed to allow it to compel charities to register their details is not sufficient enough to allow this process to begin.

It has therefore referred that part of the legislation back to the Department for Social Development.

Until the law is amended, the commission has side-stepped the registration issue by using the customs and revenue tax register for charities as an alternative list.

The commission was set up in March 2009 as the new independent regulator for the 7000 or so charities that exist in Northern Ireland.

Last year its budget was almost £800,000.

Alex Maskey, chair of the Department of Social Development committee, said the flaw was costing the public money.

"The legislation was past last year and there has been a flaw discovered in that legislation to the point where the Charity Commission is not yet able to fully do its function," he said.

"And that is still costing quite a bit of money to the public purse."

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