Charity's €51k credit card spend not adequately accounted for: watchdog
A gay rights group that allowed charitable funds to be used to support its founder's political campaign also spent another €51,174 with credits cards "which was not adequately supported with itemised receipts or invoices", the charity watchdog has revealed.
An investigation by the Charities Regulator found funds were used to support an unsuccessful Seanad campaign by co-founder Kieran Rose that he ran from the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network's (Glen) office.
It emerged last year he used Glen's office space, printing and photocopying and has since repaid the cost.
The regulator, John Farrelly, also found inadequate and inappropriate controls were applied to the use of charity credit cards, including personal expenditure and cash withdrawals.
While personal expenditure on credit cards was repaid to Glen between January 2014 and May 2017, there was a further €51,174 which was spent using company credit cards that was not adequately supported by itemised receipts or invoices.
The regulator said visa receipts are not adequate for credit card expenses as it only proves payment and does not provide detail of what was paid for.
"This limited the ability to fully assess the underlying purpose of the expenditure incurred. For example, where expenditure was incurred via hotel stay, dinner, lunch, restaurant or bar an itemised receipt was not provided," he said.
"It was not possible to readily determine the purpose of the expenditure, the number of people in attendance, actual items purchased etc."
The inspectors found an organisational culture within Glen where charity trustees appeared to place relatively high levels of trust in staff members without adequate checks and balances being in place to provide necessary oversight of all financial transactions and financial reporting.
The trustees included Simon Nugent, the former chief executive of the Private Hospitals Association and Séamus Dooley, the current general secretary of the National Union of Journalists.
Brian Sheehan, the general secretary of the Social Democrats, was a former executive director of Glen.
The regulator said the weaknesses in the charity's financial reporting processes meant the board was unable to detect and mitigate the significant risks identified in this report in order to consistently safeguard the charity's assets and funds and ensure they were used to further the charitable purpose of the charity.
"There are key lessons for all Irish registered charities in ensuring there are financial controls in place and full disclosure by management to charity trustees so they can manage their organisation," Mr Farrelly said.
The inspectors also highlighted the need for continuous communication by the external auditor with the charity trustees where significant internal control issues were identified.
"Glen is currently in the process of being wound down," Mr Farrelly said.