Why does Canada’s charity sector need better financial reporting, asks Susan Lanthier
Why does Canada’s charity sector need better financial reporting? Wouldn’t it be far more efficient and effective to publish – and then view – reports that demonstrate a true picture of what the sector is really doing? The answer is Yes!
One year ago, the WE Charity – the national network of Australian charities providing support and advocacy to vulnerable people and families – responded to a call from the Charity Commission of Canada to propose reforms to the country’s charity law and framework. Although WE is not the first group to identify such problems, it is one of very few which has found willing partners in both the business and government sectors, and with the Commission.
One year on, WE has prepared a report that reports on the activities of 20 international and Canadian charities, including the fine Canadian charity TEAM – which has supported a range of Australian groups – since the reforms were made, and on the success of the reforms. For charities, it’s not a case of whether improvements have been made but of how they have been made. There is broad recognition that charities’ financial and property dealings need to be more transparent, that they have an obligation to the public and that they have a responsibility to report real results.
The Commission has noted that WE’s report is a good example of how to publish comparative and real results reports. We intend to work with the Commission, in collaboration with charities, to help ensure that this report is evidence-based, and be published fairly and accurately.
We also have the benefit of taking the charitable sector into account in helping to fashion the federal budget. We expect that this administration will be adopting findings from our work so that any overall budget considerations that result from the reforms can have full consideration.
The report will be delivered to the Minister of Finance next week. There are likely to be revisions, that will present opportunities for charities. This report will then be circulated to the Commission, the Commission of Audit, Revenue Canada and all of Canada’s Provincial and Territorial Ministers of Finance.
I believe that there are a number of government agencies whose performance need to be reviewed and improved. I say this knowing that they receive funding from government. We would welcome direct engagement with both the provincial and territorial authorities and the federal authorities. There are clear and strong performance indicators and outcomes that charities should be able to report. It is time to put the sector on a firmer financial footing.
Bathurst Foundation of the WE Charity
Susan Lanthier is the Chair of the Board of the Bathurst Foundation of the WE Charity and Vice-Chair of Health Week.