On 19 June 2017, the Charity Commission published a Memorandum of Understanding (“MoU”) between itself and the Information Commissioner. On the same day this MoU was published, the Charity Commission also published MoUs with two local authorities - Broxbourne Borough Council and Oxford City Council as well as the Kent Intelligence Network as part of a pilot to tackle misconduct and mismanagement by charities.
The operation of the MoU between the Charity Commission and the Information Officer will be monitored by both organisations and will be reviewed after one year from the date of the document. The MoU sets out the functions and powers of both the Charity Commission and the Information Officer and clearly states its aims which are to:
- promote a common understanding of each organisation’s responsibilities, working procedures, legal powers and constraints;
- promote co-operation between the Commission and the Information Commissioner’s staff at a strategic and operation level;
- facilitate effective investigation and the exchange of information with the objective of preventing and enforcing against practices that breach the relevant legislation
- ensure appropriate consultation on matters of mutual interest to ensure that charities may be encouraged to fully comply with their legal obligations and adopt best practice in governance and accountability
The MoU provides that both the Information Commissioner and the Charity Commission agree that subject to any legal restrictions, they will discuss issues of regulatory concern to each organisation andcommunicate regularly (at least annually) to discuss matters of mutual regulatory interest.
They also agree to consult with each other at any early stage on any regulatory issues that may have significant implications for the other organisation and to share draft documents which may impact on the other organisation’s objectives and functions at an early stage and invite comment upon those documents.
In addition, the Charity Commission will liaise with the Information Commissioner if it receives a complaint or intelligence which appears to be relevant to the Data Protection Act 1998 or Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 and if appropriate refer the matter to the Commissioner.
The MoU provides that both organisations will ensure that any disclosure of information under its terms is carried out in a manner that is efficient, proportionate and fully in compliance with the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Data Protection Act 1998 and with due regard to legal protections including those that exist under the laws of confidence and legal professional privilege.
Whilst the MoU does not give rise to legally binding obligation on the part of either party, it is intended to provide a framework for a closer working relationship between the Charity Commission and the Information Commissioner in order that charities can enjoy public support and confidence whilst acting in compliance with the relevant data protection legislation.