„The SCA notes that the AHRC has raised concerns regarding the sustainability of its funding base and specific challenges in the past 12 months concerning cash flow and operations. The AHRC reports that it has faced significant challenges in this regard, including:
– The appointment of two Commissioners without additional funding being provided (in particular, funding was removed for the Disability Discrimination Commissioner in 2014, and was not restored when appointments to this role were made in 2016 and 2019; funding was not provided when the Human Rights Commissioner was appointed in 2016, and is yet to be confirmed following the appointment of a Human Rights Commissioner in 2021);
– A sustained increase in complaints of discrimination and human rights violations without dedicated additional funding;
– A substantial increase in complaints during the COVID-19 pandemic, with no additional funding support; and
– No general increase in the AHRC overall budget, requiring increased property and staffing costs to be met through the existing appropriation.
The SCA emphasizes that, to function effectively, an NHRI must be provided with an appropriate level of funding in order to guarantee its ability to freely determine its priorities and activities. In particular, adequate funding should, to a reasonable degree, ensure the gradual and progressive realization of improvement in the NHRI’s operations and the fulfilment of its mandate.
Provision of adequate funding by the State should, at a minimum, include the following:
a) The allocation of funds for premises, which are accessible to the wider community, including for persons with disabilities. In certain circumstances, in order to promote independence and accessibility, this may require that offices are not co-located with government agencies. Where possible, accessibility should be further enhanced by establishing a permanent regional presence;
b) Salaries and benefits awarded to staff comparable to those of civil servants performing similar tasks in other independent institutions of the State;
c) Remuneration of members of the decision-making body (where appropriate);
d) The establishment of a well-functioning communications system including telephone and internet; and
e) The allocation of a sufficient amount of resources for mandated activities. Where the NHRI has been designated with additional responsibilities by the State, additional financial resources should be provided to enable it to assume the responsibilities of discharging these functions.
The SCA encourages the AHRC to continue to advocate for an appropriate level of funding to ensure the sustainability of its funding base in carrying out its mandate.“