Confusion reigns as ACNC faces the axe

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Confusion continues to reign for the not-for-profit sector despite the Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s announcement in Federal Parliament last week that the ACNC would be abolished on the Government’s so-called Autumn Repeal Day.

The Prime Minister and the Federal Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews have argued the ACNC imposes unnecessary red tape on the charity and not-for-profit sector.

“Vesting powers in a separate entity to oversee and regulate charities runs counter to the deregulation approach, which takes a risk-based approach to oversight of the institutions of civil society, whether they are for-profit or not-for-profit,” Mr Andrews told Federal Parliament last week.

However, the government is yet to clarify which functions of the ACNC will be transferred back to the ATO and ASIC and which might move to another entity altogether.

In introducing a bill to dismantle the ACNC in parliament last week, Mr Andrews said it would not come into force until a second bill was introduced “which will provide the details of the arrangements replacing the commission”. But no date or details have been provided in relation to the second bill.

Despite reiterating his plans to establish a “National Centre for Excellence for civil society”, Mr Andrews is yet to provide his exact plans.

Late last month, ACNC Commissioner Susan Pascoe told a Senate estimates hearing that there had been no discussion with the Government about the winding up of the body.

“Certainly not with us, and I am not aware of any with the sector,” said the Commissioner when asked if there had been any discussions about the Government’s proposal to replace the ACNC with a centre for excellence.

The continued uncertainty comes after the ACNC said last week that 20,000 charities had commenced or submitted their Annual Information Statements. It said the 30,000 ACNC-registered charities with a June 30 ending financial year needed to lodge their AIS statements by March 31.

Despite the sword hanging over its head since the last election, the ACNC has been pressing on, not only in its collection of AIS statements, but with its own survey on reducing red tape.

Last week, the ACNC launched an online survey on red tape in the charity sector which was part of research being conducted by Ernst and Young that seeks to “identify target areas for red tape reduction, with markers for success”.

Maybe the survey could provide an opportunity for the charity sector to provide feedback to the Federal Coalition, which up to now does not appear to have consulted widely in coming up with its policy and seems to be ignoring the fact that the pre-ACNC world that it is looking to restore was itself a minefield of red tape with little or no transparency as to the conduct of Australia’s estimated 660,000 not-for-profits.    That’s one NFP organisation for every 35 Australians.

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