Faith-based refugee workers witness conditions after EU-Turkey agreement
Following the 15th-16th July attempted coup in Turkey, Marc Pierini, a visiting scholar at the Brussels-based Carnegie Europe foreign policy think-tank and a former EU ambassador to Turkey, has suggested that, because of mutual interests, this year’s EU-Turkey refugee agreement is not in jeopardy.
Last March, the European Union and Turkey agreed in a nine-point statement that all new “irregular migrants” crossing from Turkey to the Greek islands as of 20th March would be returned to Turkey and that for every Syrian being returned to Turkey from the Greek islands, another Syrian would be resettled to the EU. The full nine points have been published online (http://europa. eu/rapid/ press-release_MEMO- 16-963_en.htm).
Mr Pierini commented: “What is more likely is that the EU and Turkey … will continue to implement the core elements of the deal. That is especially true as €2bn out of the €3bn promised by the EU to Turkey under the agreement will have been allocated by the end of September, a remarkable performance in just six months. In doing so, the two sides are likely to maintain a course of action that improves the situation of Syrian refugees in Turkey while alleviating the burden on the country’s budget.
CHARITY COMMISSION FOR NI CONSULTATION AND PARISH COMPANIES ISSUE
The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland (CCNI) is currently running a public consultation on a proposed new list of “material matters” to be reported to the charity regulators by auditors and independent examiners. This affects the Church, with many parishes, as required, already having registered as charities in their own right.
The CCNI consultation document explains that under legislation in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, auditors and independent examiners have a duty to report certain matters to their respective charity regulators and that, although the legislation varies in each jurisdiction, “the broad requirement is that where an auditor or independent examiner becomes aware of any matter, through the course of their work, which they believe is of material significance for the regulator in the exercise of their functions then this must be reported to the regulator”. The document further states that “the three regulators agreed it would be beneficial to harmonise reporting requirements and update the list of matters to cover all three jurisdictions”.
This certainly makes sense. Looking at the proposed changes to the current list of matters of material significance, we would highlight one in particular: the current “Failure(s) of internal controls, including failure(s) in charity governance that resulted in a significant loss or misappropriation of charitable funds, or which leads to significant charitable funds being put at major risk” to be amended to include failure(s) that “could give rise to” the stated consequences (replacing “significant” with “material”).
This would mean that failures would not actually have had to have led to the stated consequences but would simply have to have had the potential to do so. The current prospective loss reporting requirement is limited to the prospect of “significant charitable funds being put at major risk” and the proposed change expands this specifically to encompass any matters – not only “major” ones – which “could give rise to, a material loss or misappropriation of
funds”. It is better to be clear in flagging up dangers rather than simply wait for consequences to occur.
In this regard, it is relevant to note that the report of the Church of Ireland’s Charities Registration Monitoring Working Group 2016 refers to parishes setting up charitable companies and seems to regard this as acceptable practice (General Synod Reports 2016, p.215). However, there is no reference in the Church’s Constitution to parishes establishing companies. By contrast, trusts are an accepted feature of Church life because they are necessary in order to hold property, although it is preferable for Church property to be held in trust by the Representative Church Body as opposed to local trustees.
A major question arising from the issue of parochial companies, however, is just how conflicts of interest can be avoided between them and select vestries in the management of what are company – but also ultimately parochial – funds. Company law entails such a considerable degree of complexity of arrangements that, by virtue of that fact alone, the good management of parish funds is placed in jeopardy when parochial affairs are run by a parochial company. Parishioners should not find that on joining a select vestry they are caught up in the complexities of company affairs in addition to normal parochial matters, even if there are already at least half a dozen barristers on the vestry. Everyone on a vestry needs to understand everything.
Rather than admitting tacit acceptance, the Church should not only point out difficulties and advise parishes which feel they need to set up company structures to take legal and accounting advice, making legal advisers aware of the Church’s Constitution and the charitable objects under which parishes operate (General Synod Reports 2016, p.215). It should also go further and explicitly warn parishes that, despite all the legal advice to hand, in setting up companies they are placing good parochial governance in very serious jeopardy.
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Following Jesus where the need is greatest – Bishop Harold Miller has recently joined Tearfund’s Board of Trustees. Below, he tells Gemma Brown from Tearfund’s Northern Ireland office how he came to be involved in this work, why he believes in ‘integral mission’ and how churches can play an important role in helping fulfil Tearfund’s call to ‘follow Jesus where the need is greatest’.
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