Tuesday 21 May 2019

Goal bounces back from a tough 2016 to regain focus on charitable mission

Goal general manager Celine Fitzgerald
Goal general manager Celine Fitzgerald

Gavin McLoughlin and Shane Phelan

International aid charity Goal said it had bounced back from a difficult 2016 as it released its annual report for last year.

The charity hit the headlines two years ago after its Syrian aid programme was embroiled in an investigation by the US Office of the Inspector General.

The American watchdog was investigating allegations of bid-rigging by suppliers to Goal and other humanitarian organisations working in Turkey and Syria.

US funding was suspended for certain parts of Goal's aid programme in Syria, while Irish Aid also suspended around €7m in funding.

The suspensions were subsequently lifted, but the investigation led to a period of uncertainty for Goal, which shed 25 staff and held exploratory talks with Oxfam about a possible merger which did not go ahead.

Two Turkish-based Goal staff were fired after the probe was launched, while a number of senior staff also departed. While some had a connection to the issues in Syria, others left for unconnected reasons.

Goal general manager Celine Fitzgerald told the Irish Independent last year that the charity admitted there was "a conflict of interest that wasn't handled well". But she said it did not amount to criminal activity.

Yesterday Ms Fitzgerald said the organisation "has come through a comprehensive and necessary process of change over the past two years".

"Overall, I am pleased that Goal was in a far stronger position at the end of 2017 than it was at the start of the year.

"The year also saw Goal further strengthen its ethical management systems as training on issues around compliance was rolled out across the organisation, culminating in 97pc of global staff being fully trained in this area by year end," she added.

"The organisation has already stated openly that it wishes to become a 'best in class' in terms of ethics and compliance and is confident that this objective will be achieved in time."

Since the end of last year the charity has signed new contracts with the UK and US Governments, along with the EU and the UN, while also boosting its public fundraising capabilities by hiring a global head of fundraising and marketing.

Financial statements released yesterday said that last year expenditure on charitable activities amounted to €122m - 99pc of total expenditure.

Income was substantially down on 2016 however, at a total of €116.5m compared to just under €163m the previous year.

Spending outstripped income by €6.6m last year, compared to €31.6m the year before.

"While the 2017 annual report reflects a period of consolidation, the organisation can be justifiably proud that it managed to reach and support so many vulnerable people across the world," Ms Fitzgerald said.

She said the charity "continued to respond to major crises" in various locations.

Irish Independent

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