Sunday 25 September 2016

Charities must get house in order

Published 03/07/2016 | 02:30

Further complaints in relation to Console were made in 2009, but the State, specifically the Health Service Executive, which contributed €2.5m to Console for its counselling service, failed to deal adequately with those complaints. Stock image
Further complaints in relation to Console were made in 2009, but the State, specifically the Health Service Executive, which contributed €2.5m to Console for its counselling service, failed to deal adequately with those complaints. Stock image

Concerns about governance, including accounting practices, at the suicide-bereavement charity Console were first raised as far back as 2006, but it has taken a decade for a more complete and deeply disquieting picture to be brought into the public domain. Recent revelations in relation to this charity, coming so soon after disclosures about the corporate culture at other charities, have served to cast a further dark shadow over the charities sector in general. These revelations have also raised serious issues related to the belated regulation of this sector, whose members, it must be asserted, do crucial work to make up for the shortfall in proper state funding of services for those most in need at a hugely vulnerable time in their lives.

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Further complaints in relation to Console were made in 2009, but the State, specifically the Health Service Executive, which contributed €2.5m to Console for its counselling service, failed to deal adequately with those complaints; seven years later, when a formal audit uncovered abuses, the HSE was again slow to respond.

This is simply not good enough - not any more. Vast sums of money, from both the taxpayer, via state bodies, and from generous members of the public, who in recent years have been greatly moved by the plight of those increased numbers who have turned to the services of Console and other similar charities, are involved here. As such, people are entitled to know that such funds are appropriately applied for the purpose intended.

The outrageous manner in which the founders of Console have been revealed to have spent hundreds of thousands of euro through the years on everything from grocery bills to dental work to flash motor cars is, quite frankly, beneath contempt.

The full force of the regulatory and investigatory authorities should now be brought to bear in relation to all proven abuses, and no measure should be spared to seek recompense and apply the full rigours of the law if those authorities decide that is an appropriate course to follow.

It may be that the authorities are only now, belatedly, beginning to contend with decades of governance abuses in the charity sector.

But catch up these authorities must, and with greater speed and efficiency at that. If that requires a more assertive approach by the Regulator than has been the case to date, then let us have such an approach, alongside the appointment of properly trained regulatory personnel to back up such assertiveness.

It would also be in the best interests of all charities to get out in front of this issue, as many have attempted to do, but some have not, and to co-operate in a timely manner with the Regulator.

Yes, of course, the vast majority of charities provide an excellent service, work that the State itself abdicated decades ago, but it is no longer good enough to simply state, or to even assume, that, such has been the deeply disturbing revelations in relation to prominent charities in recent years, many of them household names dealing with vast sums of money, of which the disclosures in relation to Console are the latest.

This issue needs to be tackled with great energy, not least by those within the charity sector itself who have the authority to do so, lest lasting and permanent damage is done.

In short, with respect where it is due but and with mounting concern bordering on anger: get your house in order.

Quotes of the week

“Well, I’m still alive.”

Queen Elizabeth II’s response to Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, who enquired after her health.

“It’s awful for the people they’ve kept back from the edge of the precipice. It’s awful for the people who have been working there. It’s awful for every single charity.”

Jonathan Irwin, CEO of Jack and Jill, responds to the Console revelations.

“There is nothing more emotional and fantastic than when you face the Tricolour abroad and we did that on the playing fields of France and our supporters — the best ambassadors this country will ever have.”

FAI CEO John Delaney reflects on Ireland’s performance in the Euros.

“You should have seen us last night.”

After their popular return to The X Factor’s judging panel, Sharon Osborne reflects on a wild night out with Louis Walsh ahead of the show’s Dublin auditions.

“When I came here 17 years ago and said I wanted to lead a campaign to get Britain to leave the European Union, you all laughed at me. Well, I have to say, you’re not laughing now are you?”

Ukip leader Nigel Farage taunts MEPs in the European Parliament.

“For heaven’s sake, man, go.”

British Prime Minister David Cameron in Commons exchanges with beleaguered Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

“And so fell Boris the Brave, Boris the Bold, Boris the Brexiteer. Shambolic, heroic, flawed, magnificent, a crowd-pleaser, a campaigner who electrified the public, had been seen off by the forces of greyness.”

Quentin Letts, political commentator, on the “assassination” of Boris Johnson.

“There is going to be a negotiation of extraordinary complexity where there are a thousand devils in every detail.”

Tony Blair on the forthcoming Brexit negotiations, claiming: “Our nation is in peril.”

“When I was young, if anyone had a dispute, they’d sort it out with a fist fight but now it’s solved with the barrel of a gun.”

A local man responds to the news of a man being shot dead near the Liberties last Friday evening. This incident is believed to be related to the Kinahan-Hutch gang war, making it the eighth gang-related assassination in the past year.

“It was all just a blur. It was amazing. I did enjoy myself even though I was getting duffed up. I loved every bit of it. Not the duffing bit. I loved getting stuck in, fighting hard.”

British tennis player Marcus Willis, ranked 722 in the world, after his Centre Court defeat at the hands of Roger Federer at Wimbledon.

“Bummed to have lost yesterday, but at least I had a tonne of death threats on Facebook and Twitter to make me feel better about things.”

South African tennis star Kevin Anderson, rated 25th in the world, after his first-round defeat at Wimbledon.

“I have seen fame turn into absolute poison.”

Singer song-writer Paul Simon who is retiring aged 74.

Sunday Independent

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