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GOAL denies wrongdoing over audit documents

OVERSEAS aid agency GOAL claims it has provided valid explanations to government auditors about why it failed to produce documents requested by them.

It came following reports yesterday that the agency had withheld the minutes of board meetings, copies of agendas for meetings and information on board and management planning.

It was also alleged that an internal review of security after the kidnapping of two staff in Sudan in 2009 was withheld from Irish Aid auditors by the charity.

However, GOAL -- which is headed by John O'Shea -- yesterday denied it was involved in any wrongdoing.

"GOAL co-operates fully with its external auditors and has a strong track record of compliance and cost effectiveness over the last 35 years," it said.

A report by the Department of Foreign Affairs multi-annual funding scheme for Irish non-government organisations demonstrated that GOAL had fulfilled its requirements, the statement said. "Any documentation requested by Irish Aid was submitted and referenced in the final evaluation report," it added.

And it said that in the case of the absence of any documents, GOAL had "provided a clear rationale" to auditors.

The report, which looked at how the charity spent €14m of state funding, is yet to be published, but last night a spokeswoman for Irish Aid confirmed that it had been completed.

It is understood that the report found that the agency was largely well-run and praised its staff.

Last December, it emerged that two directors of the charity resigned their positions, with one of them citing corporate governance issues.

Chairman Ken Fogarty (55) resigned in November and Fran Rooney (55) announced he was also quitting. Both men were on the board of GOAL for just three months.

Mr Fogarty cited corporate governance issues at GOAL for his leaving, Mr Rooney said. Mr Fogarty said that he still had "every confidence" in the board.

GOAL was criticised for its handling of the Sharon Commins kidnapping in Sudan more than two years ago, and the role played by Mr O'Shea.

Ms Commins spent 107 days in captivity in 2009, after she and her colleague Hilda Kawuki were abducted while working for GOAL in Darfur.

She criticised the agency following her release, claiming that it failed in its duty to protect its staff.

However, Mr O'Shea defended the charity, saying he felt that he did not have responsibility for the security of all of his staff.

Irish Independent