Amendments to the Charitable Fundraising Act
The Charitable Fundraising Amendment (Inquiries) Bill 2017 (NSW) (Bill) passed both houses of Parliament and came into force amending the Charitable Fundraising Act 1991 (NSW) (Act) from 14 August 2017.
In his second reading speech, the Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation Matt Kean cited recent high profile instances of financial impropriety, including the misuse of funds, by charities or persons involved in charities as having the potential to undermine public confidence in charitable organisations broadly.
The remedy proposed is to enhance the inquiry powers available under the Act by adding Ministerial discretion to hold a public inquiry in relation to any matter under section 26 of the Act and in circumstances where the Minister deems it in the public interest to so do.
Notable components of the new public inquiry powers include:
- Ministerial discretion to recover the cost of a public inquiry conducted in relation to a particular charity or person from that charity or person (s41);
- Matters open to be considered by the public inquiry include governance of the charity, the conduct of fund raising and application of funds raised, and the conduct of individuals involved with the charity (s41B);
- Ministerial discretion to reconstitute an existing inquiry as a public inquiry (s41C);
- Ministerial discretion to require a report be produced and published by the Inquirer as the Minister considers appropriate including tabled in Parliament (s41E);
- The power of the Public Inquirer to issue a summons to a person to appear (s41J), issue a search warrant (s41Q), and apprehend a person who fails to comply (s41R); and
- The power of the Public Inquirer to compel witnesses to give evidence, provide documents, or answer questions, even if that evidence is self-incriminating (s41N).
Inquiries that do not meet the threshold level of seriousness required to trigger a public inquiry will continue to be conducted as they were prior to the passage of this Bill.