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The ACNC and the promotion of the charities it regulates, including the case of ‘Food Ladder’

The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC), the national regulator of charities, under ‘ACNC news’, has a series ‘Getting to Know’. Here it promotes particular charities. This is the introduction used: ‘With more than 56,000 charities in Australia, there are thousands of fantastic stories about the impact charities have on their local community.’

A regulator promoting those that it regulates didn’t sit right with me. Here, from the OECD publication, Governance of Regulators[1], is some support for my disquiet:

I asked the ACNC about their decision:

They said that they would be publishing the criteria but declined to respond to the bigger question publicly.

Leaving aside the wisdom of their practice in promoting charities, one would expect that one of the selection criteria would be that the charity is compliant with the regulator’s requirements.

‘Registered charity’ Food Ladder’ was recently promoted:

The ACNC, in their article, Donating to Legitimate Charities, gives “some things to consider to help you make sure your donation is going where it is intended”. #1 is ‘Check the charity’s name.’

A search on the name ‘Food Ladder’ on the ACNC Register of charities gives a surprising result – no results:

This is because, even though the ACNC says that the charity they were promoting, Fair Business, was ‘commonly known as Food Ladder’, Fair Business, without comment by the ACNC, has omitted to include the name ‘Food Ladder’ in the section ‘Also known as’.

A bigger issue with the name though, is that, again without comment by the ACNC, it is wrong on the ACNC Register. The legal name, the name required by the ACNC, is ‘Food Ladder’, not ‘Fair Business’. And it has been that way since December 2014:

This name is also meant to match that shown in Food Ladder’s governing document but the charity, again without comment by the ACNC, has not lodged one. (They have something under ‘Governing Document’, but this is their ‘Certificate of Registration on Change in Name[2].)

Other ‘Food Ladder’ entities

The name on the Register is also meant to match the name on ASIC’s register. A search on this shows that it does, but also reveals another current ‘Food Ladder’ company:

This company is mentioned only once on the website (here), and then only just its name. Yet it is a ‘wholly owned subsidiary’ (Financial Report 2017):

There’s also a ‘Food Ladder’ company in India. This company is not mentioned in the Financial Report.

Food Ladder does not say in the Financial Report whether it is reporting as an individual entity or a group, but it acknowledges that ‘Food Ladder International Pty Limited’ is a related entity[3].

So, all in all, neither Food Ladder nor the ACNC score well on ‘Name’, the first of the things that the ACNC suggest you check before giving.

Name aside, if you like the look at what Food Ladder is doing, let me know if you want a review on the ACNC’s other criteria.

  1.  From Chapter 5 of the OECD’s Governance of Regulators (https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/governance/the-governance-of-regulators_9789264209015-en).
  2. This was lodged three years after the change.
  3. There is no comment on the fact that 62% of Food Ladder’s current assets is money owing by the subsidiary.