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Friday 20 September 2019

Aid charity Goal has €31m deficit after fraud probe

Celine Fitzgerald, general manager of international aid charity Goal. Photo: Damien Eagers
Celine Fitzgerald, general manager of international aid charity Goal. Photo: Damien Eagers
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

International aid charity Goal recorded a €31.6m deficit last year after experiencing funding difficulties when an investigation was launched into allegations of fraud.

As a result, Goal said it was forced to dip into cash reserves to continue aid programmes in Sudan and South Sudan.

However, the charity insists it has ridden out the crisis, with donors now fully committed to funding its programmes after internal controls and anti-fraud measures were improved.

Goal's annual report for 2016, published yesterday, revealed expenditure was €194.6m, while its income was just €162.97m after "one of the most challenging years" in its 40-year history.

The charity's general manager Celine Fitzgerald told the Irish Independent the scale of the deficit was "unusual".

"There is no doubt that the events of the last year have contributed to the scale of the deficit that we are showing this year," she said. "That is because some of our donors who used to pay us up front are paying in instalments. Some are paying in arrears, so you have a change in the payment methods."

Ms Fitzgerald said the charity had to take "a bit of a punt" on whether international donors would eventually come through on certain programmes, but felt it had made "the right decision" in using cash reserves to keep those programmes in operation.

Despite these problems, the charity's auditors have given it a clean bill of health in the annual report.

Goal's difficulties began in April 2016 when it emerged the Office of the Inspector General in the US was investigating allegations of bid-rigging by suppliers of Goal and other humanitarian organisations in Turkey and Syria. US funding was suspended for certain parts of Goal's aid programme in Syria, while Irish Aid also suspended some funding. The suspensions were subsequently lifted.

Former chief executive Barry Andrews was the highest profile departure. The Irish Independent is aware there is absolutely no suggestion he was involved in any wrongdoing.

It subsequently transpired some other former staff had been involved in a company providing services to the NGO sector in Syria while continuing to work for Goal.

Irish Independent

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