€3 million in State funding for Goal withheld by Department of Foreign Affairs
Millions of euro in aid has been withheld from aid agency Goal pending a US government investigation.
The US agency for international development is investigating up to 25 agencies in relation to projects for Syria, GOAL is one of them.
GOAL CEO Barry Andrews told RTÉ News that he apologises for not notifying the Department of Foreign Affairs.
The Department has withheld nearly €3m in funding for Goal until the investigation is completed.
“The allegations broadly speaking relates to collusion between suppliers in relation to the prices that are set. They relate to allegations concerning kick-backs received by staff and in cases that don’t involve Goal there are issues of a product substitution so that it’s not the product that we expected to be delivered to beneficiaries,” Andrews told RTÉ News.
Andrews was informed of the decision in June and two charity workers, based in Turkey, have already been sacked on foot of information emerging from the USAid investigation.
“We haven’t completed our own investigation but initial findings led us to terminate individuals locally in Turkey,” said Andrews.
Andrews said they hope to conclude their investigation in the next couple of weeks but that the matter “has only risen from US funding in Turkey”.
“We have many other funders in Syria and those programmes will continue. We have programmes throughout the world that are unaffected and indeed we have received further funding in other countries from US since April so it is a localised issue but is it one that we’re taking extremely seriously. We have a zero tolerance for fraud and we always have done in GOAL,” he said.
In April the charity and others were ordered to halt procurement using some US funds as the US Agency for International Development (USAid) began an investigation into alleged bribery and bid rigging.
The enforced suspension affects about €6.2 million of the €113 million GOAL receives from USAid.
Andrews apologised to the Department of Foreign affairs for not alerting them to the investigation.
“It’s not a suspension; it’s a withholding of funding in order to establish the facts around the investigation. We didn’t withhold that information. The complaints from the Department of Foreign Affairs are that a story appeared in the media and we didn’t give them notification about that in advance for which we acknowledge we should have done that and I apologise for it.”
He said Irish Aid funding “wasn’t affected” by the investigation or the suspension of the US funding as it was “exclusively US funded projects that were affected”.
“It was an oversight by us, there was nothing intended by us and I hope that we can put it behind us.”
He said GOAL are anxious to have the money released and will work closely with the Department.
“Obviously it will be a matter for Foreign Affairs and Irish Aid to decide whether they are satisfied with the investigation and demonstrate GOAL’s determination to approve our systems to make sure we’ve remediated any weaknesses identified.
“It involved at least three other international NGOs much larger than GOAL and a wide number of suppliers some of them that we don’t use, it involves countries that we don’t operate in so this is a very widespread investigation that has affected quite a lot of agencies and from time to time these issues arise and I think it’s an acute learning episode for the aid agency involved so we’re determined that this will be something that will assist us to evolve and bring us up to our next stage of development.”
He said that the people most affected are the one million beneficiaries in Syria.
“We want to get back to work, get back to do what we normally do but we have to learn our lessons from what happened as well.
“We don’t work in highly regulated areas, we work in complex environment and respond to humanitarian emergences. We’re working very difficult cross border circumstances and I think a lot of our donors understand that while you can’t eliminate risk we have to be as determined as possible because you have the tax payer’s money.
“But if you’re going to do this work you can’t entirely eliminate the possible of problems like this emerging.”
He said the investigation is a “learning opportunity” for Goal and they are “definitely determined to evolve as an organisation”.