Friday March 2013

ACNCSummary – Not-For-Profit Sector Freedom to Advocate Bill Introduced to the Senate.

On Wednesday 13 March 2013, Senator Penny Wong tabled the Not for Profit Sector Freedom to Advocate Bill in the Senate. The Bill invalidates gag clauses contained in past, present and future Commonwealth government contracts with Not-For-Profit organisations.

The legislation is intended to promote and respect the independence of the Not-For-Profit sector. In doing so, it will ensure that Not-For-Profit organisations cannot be gagged from speaking out against the government for fear of breach of contract. Senator Wong has stated that this legislation was drafted in response to the Newman Government inserting gag clauses into government contracts in Queensland. The Commonwealth Government has now made a point of calling on each of the State and Territory Governments to legislate in a similar fashion.

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ACNCSummary – Details regarding the 2013 transitional and 2014 ACNC Annual Information Statements have been released.

Earlier this month we foreshadowed that the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission (ACNC) would release the proposed information to be included in the compulsory Annual Information Statement (AIS) under the ACNC Act.

Regardless of size or purpose all charities registered with the ACNC must submit an AIS to the Commissioner each year. The first AIS will need to be completed for the 2012-2013 financial year, and it is proposed that the transitional AIS will require less information than future years.

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signing documentSummary – The ACT has followed the move by South Australia to sign up to the ACNC legislative framework.  Who will be next?

It has been announced that the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) will be signing up to the Australian Charities and Not-For-Profit Commission (ACNC) regulatory framework by making changes which will carve out the charities registered by the ACNC from regulatory requirements under relevant ACT legislation.

The ACT is the second Australian State or Territory to sign up to the ACNC regulatory framework after South Australia became the first in October 2012 to announce that it would also progress changes to align its regulatory framework for incorporated associations and fundraising with the ACNC.

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ACNCIn mid-December the Gillard Government released draft Governance Standards for consultation. These standards will apply to all charities registered with the ACNC (for more information on the draft governance standards and the information see our article “Draft Governance Standards and Financial Reporting Regulations Released” published on 18 December 2012). Although the consultation period only closed 3 weeks ago, the Assistant Treasurer, Hon David Bradbury has confirmed that next week the Government will table a revised version of the governance standards in Parliament.

The governance standards as tabled in parliament are available here, and the explanatory memorandum is available here.

The ACNC governance standards are proposed to commence on 1 July 2013, subject to the special Parliamentary scrutiny provisions of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Act 2012.

According to the Assistant Treasurer’s press release a number of changes were made to the governance standards following the consultation process.

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Filling in QuestionnaireSummary – The ACNC has conducted a consultation of its regulatory approach…. and the results are now in.

The Australian Charities and Not-For-Profits Commission (ACNC) conducted a public consultation between December 2012 and 1 March 2013 on its preliminary regulatory approach statement.  The consultation has now closed and over 250 people provided feedback through either an online survey, written submissions or via the phone-in day which was held on Wednesday 20 February.

The main purpose of the consultation was to find out what charities and the public think about the initial regulatory approach of the ACNC, particularly:

  • how clearly the regulatory approach statement communicates the approach of the ACNC;
  • whether the statement reflects an accurate understanding of charities and the appropriate approach that the ACNC should adopt;
  • examples of how the ACNC could use its enforcement powers; and
  • general suggestions for improvement.

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Cutting red tapeSummary – The Government has released revised Commonwealth Grant Guidelines for the Not-For-Profit sector in an attempt to reduce red tape and improve collaboration between Government and the Not-For-Profit sector.

The Government has released revised Commonwealth Grant Guidelines for the Not-For-Profit sector.

Grants are widely used by the Government to achieve government policy objectives, involving the payment of billions of dollars each year to the non-government sector.  The Commonwealth Grant Guidelines are issued by the Finance Minister under Section 64 of the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 and Regulation 7A of the Financial Management and Accountability Regulations 1997. They establish the government’s policy framework under which government agencies undertake their own grants administration activities.

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Summary – Draft Details Regarding the ACNC Annual Information Statement Released

Under the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission (ACNC) Act 2012 all registered charities are required to prepare and lodge Annual Information Statements. Registered charities must submit an Annual Information Statement (AIS) to the ACNC Commissioner no later than 6 months after the charity’s end of financial year (i.e. due 31 December 2013 unless a substituted accounting period has been approved by the ACNC). Failure to comply with this requirement may result in an administrative penalty being payable.

The Council of Australian Governments’ Regulatory Impact Assessment of Potential Duplication of Governance and Reporting Standards for Charities (RIA) states that the ACNC Commissioner has approved a draft outline of what entities must include in their AIS for 2012-13. The RIA suggests that no financial information will be required for this transitional (2012-2013) AIS.

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