Ex-hospice charity employee quizzed over €280,000 'fraud'
A FORMER employee at Ireland’s largest hospice has been arrested by gardai investigating a suspected €280,000 fraud.
Independent.ie can reveal the man, aged in his 50s, was arrested by detectives and taken to Crumlin Garda Station yesterday.
He was picked up for questioning in relation to the sale of a Spanish property belonging to Our Lady’s Hospice, located in Harold’s Cross and Blackrock.
The registered charity lost €280,000 in funds after the property, which had been bequeathed to it in a will, was sold for a fraction of its value. The loss first came to light after an audit into the hospice’s accounts between 2008 and 2015.
Following an internal investigation, the employee at the centre of the property deal was dismissed by the hospice, while the Charities Regulator and the HSE were also notified.
Gardai were also contacted and detectives based at Crumlin Garda Station launched an investigation into the alleged fraud.
They are being assisted by officers from the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB), also known as the fraud squad, who specialise in such investigations.
While the employee was dismissed for “serious negligence”, the hospice was not equipped to determine if a crime had been committed and therefore notified gardai who are continuing to investigate the matter.
A senior source last night said the garda investigation was “complex and lengthy” due to the nature of the allegations.
It has been ongoing for around two years and resulted in yesterday’s arrest of the former worker, who was employed at the hospice for several years.
The revelations came as a significant blow to the registered charity, which received €3.18m of its €37.9m income in 2015 from donations and fundraising, while an additional €1.1m came from assets left in wills.
The money raised is vital to the hospice, with accounts showing €2.6m of it is used to fund staff salaries not covered by income from the HSE and patients. Previously, Our Lady’s Hospice confirmed the employee was dismissed after the issue was uncovered.
“We were concerned the sale did not produce the expected benefit,” the hospice said.
“The board of directors also reported its concerns to the relevant authorities – the gardai, the Charities Regulator, and the HSE – and we have co-operated fully with them.”
The hospice said its primary concern at all times was the needs and care of its residents, patients and their families, a statement said.
“We are grateful for the support we receive from everybody who is associated with Our Lady’s Hospice and Care Services – our residents and patients, their families, our fundraising supporters, our staff and volunteers and the general public.
“The board of directors and the senior management apologise unreservedly for the shortcomings outlined in the audit.
“We are sorry that we did not have more robust financial processes in place to prevent any such issue arising.
“Our Lady’s Hospice and Care Services has introduced a suite of financial policies including a robust bequest and legacy policy with checks and balances to improve our financial procedures and ensure best practices.
“The staff member involved was expeditiously dismissed by Our Lady’s Hospice and Care Services,” it added.
The hospice was founded in 1879 by the Sisters of Charity and employs over 520 staff. It also has about 300 volunteers.
Around 3,900 people benefited from its care services last year, during which it also delivered 12,300 specialist palliative home care visits.