Belfast Telegraph

Watchdog inquiry as 300 Northern Ireland charities fail to file financial report

By Donna Deeney

Nearly 300 charities failed to file a financial report to the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland by its January 31 deadline.

And a statutory inquiry has been opened for the first time into a Belfast-based charity - 100 Help the Homeless - which has failed to report to the Commission for over 550 days.

Registered charities are obliged to make a report to the Commission before the deadline if they expect to keep their charitable status.

For the first time, the public can now check online to see the 270 charities named and shamed for either failing to submit a report or who were late filing it.

However, there are no financial penalties for a charity for failing to meet the deadline, although a spokeswoman for the Commission argued that having an 'in default' status on the register could be damaging to a charity's reputation and may raise concerns amongst supporters and funders.

"For example, a funding body such as a local Trust or Council may receive an application from a charity for grant funding," she said.

"As part of assessing that application, a simple register of charities check will indicate whether the charity is registered and up-to-date, or an 'in default' marking may indicate issues with the charity and this could have a knock-on effect on the application."

The highest level of investigation open to the Commission - a statutory inquiry - may be started where the severity of the risk warrants the use of the Commission's most stringent of powers.

For the first time the Commission in Northern Ireland has taken this step against a charity here, 100 Help the Homeless, which has been in default for 555 days.

"We hope, alongside the growing register of charities and the implementation of annual reporting, that the public will not only undertake their own scrutiny of the charities they support but will be confident that a strong and proportionate charity regulator is in place," the spokeswoman added.

100 Help the Homeless has yet to respond to a request for a response.

Belfast Telegraph

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