Charities Commission consulting on publication of commercially sensitive information – October

Filed under: Australian Politics, Charities, Social Services,

The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission is seeking comment on its proposed arrangements for the publication or removal of commercially sensitive information on its national charity register.

The ACNC has produced an Exposure Draft for public comment outlining the Commission’s interpretation of what could be considered as commercially sensitive information and whether it should be included on the ACNC Register.

ACNC Assistant Commissioner General Counsel, Murray Baird, encouraged those interested in the information published on the Charity Register to provide feedback.

“Freely available information about charities helps with public trust and confidence,” Mr Baird said.

“The ACNC can withhold information that is commercially sensitive where publication may cause detriment to the charity or an individual.”

However Mr Baird said the purpose of the Commission’s Interpretation Statement was to set out the general approach the ACNC will take in considering withholding applications and determining whether commercially sensitive information should be withheld or removed from the Charity Register.

The Exposure Draft said the circumstances in which information may be withheld or removed are limited, and include situations where the information is commercially sensitive and publication could cause detriment to the charity, or an individual, is inaccurate, or likely to confuse or mislead, is offensive or could endanger public safety.

In making an application, the Exposure Draft said charities needed to indicate the circumstances relied upon, and explain why the circumstance applies to their information. The level of evidence required in support of an application will depend upon the particular circumstances of the charity, and the claimed level of detriment.

The ACNC said information on the Register is generally unlikely to be commercially sensitive. However, it said there may be instances where certain information contained in charities’ financial reports, or detailed explanation of a charity’s activities in its Annual Information Statement, may be considered commercially sensitive.

Examples of what could be considered commercially sensitive information included capital expenditures and operating expenditures, contractor or supplier information, donor information, financial arrangements and pending mergers and acquisitions.

“The ACNC is committed to working closely with the sector,”Mr Baird said. “We are a consultative regulator and this is a chance for charities and other stakeholders to have a say on how we regulate.”

Comments on the Exposure Draft can be submitted by 26 October 2015 by emailing the ACNC.

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