Assembly Creates Charity Watchdog

The activities of charities in Northern Ireland are to come under the scrutiny of a commissioner. Legislation aimed at creating the post of charity commissioner will be introduced to the assembly on Monday.

The commissioner will monitor the financial and other activities of those who claim charitable status.

Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie said a charity commission would reassure people that donations to charities would be properly regulated.

Ms Ritchie said the intention was to help charities benefit from charitable status.

“We are not seeking to place undue burden on them, undue stress,” she said on BBC Radio Ulster’s Sunday Sequence programme.

“We are trying to ensure just that good regulation is in place, to verify confidence in churches and right across communities.”

Denise McCann, of the NI Council for Voluntary Action, said the post was something they “had long campaigned for”.

She said that in Northern Ireland it was currently very easy to set up a bogus charity.

There is a very strong element of trust between the public and charities,” Ms McCann said.

“A lot of charities are very good at being transparent, at telling their donors how much money they have raised and what they have done with the money raised.

“There is potential for abuse but the majority of charities do act very well and run their organisation above board but currently in Northern Ireland, if you wanted, it could be potentially easy for you set up a bogus charity.”