The Government has referred the draft Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) legislation to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics for an inquiry over the Winter Parliamentary break.
Assistant Treasurer, the Hon David Bradbury MP, says any recommendations made by the committee will be considered before introducing the legislation later in the year, ahead of the ACNC’s 1 October 2012 start date.
The ACNC will initially regulate only charities (including public benevolent institutions), but the legislation establishes a regulatory framework that can be extended to all not-for-profit (NFP) entities in the future.
Once established, the ACNC will provide guidance materials to help NFPs with the transition to a new financial reporting framework and governance standards for NFPs. These will start on 1 July 2013, following further public consultation, and the first financial reports under this framework will not need to be lodged with the ACNC until 31 December 2014.
The Australian Institute of Company Directors (Company Directors) have now reviewed the draft Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Bill 2012 and have expressed concerns. They have called on the Federal Government to delay the introduction of the Bill.
Despite this approach will now mean that the commencement of the ACNC will be deferred (from 1 October 2012), they are of the view that this legislation in its current form would represent a major step backwards for the NFP sector because:
•• It imposes substantial and unwarranted compliance costs on charities. (The proposed requirements in the Bill only add to existing legislation governing charities);
•• It is likely to make it harder for charities to attract or retain experienced directors (most of whom serve on a pro-bono basis) due to the heavy-handed approach taken in respect of director responsibilities; and
•• It prioritises conformance over performance and diverts the resources of charities away from their underlying objectives, which are vital to the less fortunate in our society.