Saturday 23 September 2017

Glen's most generous donor only learned of concerns in the media

Chuck Feeney
Chuck Feeney
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

The organisation set up by Irish-American billionaire Chuck Feeney, which generously donated nearly €4m to the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (Glen), only found out through the media in recent days that the gay rights charity's financial affairs are under investigation.

Atlantic Philanthropies confirmed yesterday it had not been contacted by Glen regarding concerns about financial management brought to the charity's board months ago.

It had provided four grants to Glen in the period 2005 to 2011. A spokesman said the four grants it donated to Glen amounted to €3.75m, with the final payment in 2015.

"The grant purpose was to improve the ability of the LGBT community to access rights and services by providing core support to Glen," it said.

However, despite concerns about the manner in which Glen's finances were run several months ago, the philanthropic foundation, set up by Mr Feeney, only discovered that a report has been made about Glen to the Charity Regulator when the news appeared in the Irish media. "The Atlantic Philanthropies became aware of matters at Glen from media reports in recent days," a spokesman confirmed.

The accounts of Glen show it received €300,000 in 2013 and another €250,000 from Atlantic Philanthropies in 2014. Glen had an income of €762,479 in 2013, the bulk of which came from the philanthropist, with the rest generated by funding from the HSE's National Office for Suicide Prevention and €40,000 from the Department of Education for an anti-bullying plan.

A spokeswoman for Glen did not respond to a series of questions from the Irish Independent yesterday.

Members of the Glen board, who were contacted individually, also declined to return calls. The board met to discuss the crisis facing the organisation on Tuesday night.

It has been asked to present a financial report to the Charity Regulator John Farrelly, detailing how it spent its charitable funds and providing evidence they were used for the correct purpose and good works.

The HSE has held off on its planned grant funding of around €200,000 for 2017 after Glen's outgoing director Áine Duggan made a voluntary disclosure to the regulator.

A spokesman for the HSE said yesterday that it has safeguards in place which aim to reduce the chances of organisations in receipt of funding failing to spend it on the services they are contracted to provide.

Stricter surveillance was put in place by the HSE in the wake of last year's scandal involving the suicide counselling charity Console, which was found to have squandered tens of thousands of euro on travel, restaurants, cars and other non-charity items.

Agreement

The HSE said organisations in receipt of in excess of €250,000 annually are required to sign a service agreement.

This sets out the detailed terms and conditions which attach to the release of the funding. It also details the annual amount of funding to be released and the quantum of services to be provided for the money.

In the past Glen has received funding from the HSE for a helpline project, suicide prevention, mental health care and other conditions.

The HSE said there would be yearly meetings between the HSE officials and the organisations.

While these meetings are the formal review meetings in relation to the service agreements, there may have to be other meetings on operational matters.

At the end of the year the chairpersons of the organisation's board submit a signed written statement certifying that their grants were spent for the purposes intended. Financial statements are also expected.

Irish Independent

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