Friday 30 September 2016

Regulator warns that 47 charities risk downgrade

Published 22/09/2016 | 02:30

John Farrelly: ‘Non-compliant charities could lose status’. Photo: Courtpix
John Farrelly: ‘Non-compliant charities could lose status’. Photo: Courtpix

Nearly 50 charities which get a share in the HSE's funding of more than €3bn annually are in danger of being downgraded, it has emerged.

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Charity regulator, John Farrelly said some 47 of these so called section 39 agencies - which are funded by the HSE and provide a range of services in areas like disability and mental health - have failed to report to his office.

The former disgraced suicide bereavement charity Console which was at the centre of financial scandal in recent months was a Section 39 agency.

It was revealed that the Console founder Paul Kelly squandered charity funds on salaries, care and holidays.

Mr Farrelly said there are 778 of these agencies and 530 are now in compliance.

But 19pc of these have still not complied with the full reporting regulation covering registration and disclosure, he told the Oireachtas health committee.

"If this remains the case they will lose their charitable status," he warned.

Mr Farrelly was making his first appearance before the committee in the wake of the Console scandal.

"As a regulator, I hold the view that any organisation which procures services on behalf of the State has a legal and moral responsibility to ensure they are delivered to the highest standards."

He warned that "public money is sacred and if there is any indication of mismanagement or inappropriate spending the funding bodies must intervene and take appropriate action."

The HSE and other funders have to be vigilant, he stressed.

He said there is now a 'concerns email address' and a phone line to his office which are constantly monitored where people who have information about a charity they want to disclose can contact.

The identity of the whistle- blower is kept private.

All information is risk assessed and in some cases may be more appropriate for the gardaí to deal with.

Asked about the role of trustees in charities he said there is a need to give them support.

"They are well intentioned but they may not be not clear on when they should make the right call, he told the committee.

There are " well intentioned people out there who are badly informed and badly intentioned people who are well informed."

He called for charities to be as transparent as possible with the public and said their accounting should be easily understood.

Asked about the size of some charity chief's salaries he said it should be proportionate.

No "red light" about the extent of salaries had gone off yet but "that may change," he added.

It is a matter for charity trustees to ensure the salary is not impacting on funding for activities.

His officials will be quizzing trustees on whether their chief's salary is "value for money," he added.

He is planning to hire people with specialist skills.

Irish Independent

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