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Flood of financial statements from charities — but many remain late

Many Bermuda charities still lag years behind in providing their accounts to Government — and some have never submitted any at all, The Royal Gazette has learned.

A check of the financial statements of 377 registered charities at the Registry General's office showed that while many have sent in their latest accounts to the Charity Commission, others are up to 20 years behind.

Stricter rules for charities to submit their accounts for scrutiny have brought a flood of new financial statements before the Commission.

But Commission head Cummings Zuill said that while an undisclosed number of charities have been deemed delinquent, the group is trying to remain “flexible and supportive, so that just because a charity is not quite on time doesn't necessarily mean they will be shut down”.

Added Mr Zuill: “A grace period might not be the right word for it, but we recognise that people will have to get up to speed with it and realise or learn what they have to do. We don't expect it will happen overnight — at least, I don't. But we need to get the word out there.”

Some charities have lost their status. The Committee of 25 and the African Diaspora Heritage Trail (ADHT) were recently struck off the list, although the ADHT is back as a registered charity, with an expiry date set for August 6, 2014.

However, The Committee of 25 remains off the roster.

A search of publicly available financials showed another group — Operation Respect — had been given 15 days on September 3 to submit its financials, or risk losing its status.

Other charities have been queried by the Commission to account for certain expenses

The call for financial statements came after Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy promised tougher amendments to legislation governing the Island's near-400 registered charities.

However, until amendments are approved by MPs the Commission continues to operates under the 1978 Act.

Mr Zuill explained: “We are becoming much more focused and committed, and a little stricter, as we approach the changes in the legislation. When we have those changes, it will be clearer what our powers are. We are anxious for the change. With our broader powers we will be able to be more specific, and we will enforce the new policies and requirements which we are developing now.”

Over the summer, Senator Fahy revealed that some 50 charities hadn't filed their financial statements since 2010.

They were given until the end of July to file their accounts with the Registry General's office.

Thirteen subsequently requested extensions, but haven't yet been named by the Minister.

Mr Zuill said he expected it would take “another month or so” for the Commission to deal with outstanding financials.

“We are on top of the issue and of course wish to be fair as well, so it will take a little time,” he said.

He admitted that “presentation and reporting have not been as ideal as we would have liked”.

“We have been seeing some improvements, but there is still some way to go, and there will be even greater demands under the proposed new Act.”

He praised the efforts by Registry General staff in processing an “enormous” amount of material submitted over the summer.

“The Commissioners and the Registry General have changed internal practices for dealing with the receipt of financials so as to ensure timelier compliance going forward,” Mr Zuill said.

“We have also made suggestions for the proposed new legislation which will streamline the process further.”

The group, which met last week, has been questioning charities on good governance and best practices as it goes through the financials.

“Examples of required information include details of the dissolution clause in the governing documents, the independence of the treasurer, the details of the banking mandate and the declaration of any conflicts of interest,” Mr Zuill said.

Some charities are years behind with accounts

Charities that appear to be late in sending their financial details to Government were this week identified following a check by The Royal Gazette.

While the Charities Commission hasn’t yet signed off on the latest financials, and some are still being sent in, the search revealed that the Bermuda Hospice Trust, Charity 293, has never submitted the required information.

Nor were there financials on file for the Bermuda National Literacy Charitable Trust — or the group Friends of Bermuda Cathedral.

Another, the Denton Hurdle Memorial Scholarship Fund, hadn’t filed its details since June 30, 1993.

The Smith Quintuplets Charity Fund showed no fresh details since the end of 2000, while Key Women of Bermuda filed at the end of 2001.

The Bermuda Fencing Federation, meanwhile, gave its last accounts at the end of 2004 — as did Omega Phi Psi Fraternity, Inc.

The Bermuda Martial Arts Federation file showed a most recent date of April 30, 2005.

The Mid Island Strider Track Club file showed a last date of December, 2006, while the Bermuda Health Federation filed on December 31, 2007.

The Kiwanis Club of Sandys filed in September 2007.

Operation Respect, Bermuda, last filed in October 2007, and was officially warned early this month.

The Mount St Agnes Home and School Association’s file showed a date of April 30, 2008.

Special Olympics Bermuda appears to have filed last on August 31, 2008 — as had the Berkeley Institute Alumni Association.

The Association of Canadians in Bermuda sent its last accounts in at the end of 2008.

The East End Ministerial Association Emergency Relief Fund last filed on February 28, 2009, while the Fathers’ Resource Centre filed on March 31, 2009 — and the Montessori Education Trust was last on record for June 30, 2009.

The Bermuda Police Benevolent Fund’s last financials on record were handed in on December 31, 2009 — as were those of CTY Bermuda.

A further 22 charities hadn’t filed since 2010.

According to the law, financial statements are due at the Registry General’s office within six months after the financial year-end.

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Published September 12, 2013 at 12:49 am (Updated September 12, 2013 at 4:38 pm)

Flood of financial statements from charities — but many remain late

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