Wednesday 22 November 2017

Irish charity accused of financial irregularities delivers 'action plan' to Regulator

Chief Executive of Ataxia Ireland Barbara Flynn (pictured inset)
Chief Executive of Ataxia Ireland Barbara Flynn (pictured inset)
Cathal McMahon

Cathal McMahon

A charity accused of wrongly paying over €84,000 to two former trustees has delivered an action plan to the Charities Regulator.

Ataxia Ireland asked for an extension to its 21-day deadline after an inspectors' report, released in July, highlighted a number of issues that needed to be addressed by the board.

Independent.ie has learned that the charity delivered this action plan to the Charities Regulator last Friday, September 1.

A spokesman for the Regulator said: "This plan is now being considered by the Charities Regulator to decide if the plan adequately addresses the inspectors’ recommendations."

In July it was revealed that Ataxia Ireland paid the €84,009 to two former trustees Clare and Tim Creedon who founded the charity in 1980 and are the parents of current CEO Barbara Flynn.

Friedreich's Ataxia is a brain condition which affects co-ordination, balance and speech. In severe cases, ataxia can be fatal in childhood or early adulthood.

Ataxia Ireland logo
Ataxia Ireland logo

The charity had weak internal financial controls and Ms Flynn’s pension contribution of €38,500 was paid from funds rather than deducted from her salary.

The Charities Regulator report also revealed that annual credit card spending of €10,030 at the charity included purchases of alcohol supermarket food, vouchers and payment of mobile phone bills.

The Charities Regulator John Farrelly wrote to the trustees requiring the implementation of a series of corrective actions, identified by the inspectors following their investigation.

The Charities Regulator appointed two inspectors in November 2016 to investigate the affairs of the charity following concerns it received.

In his report Mr Farrelly confirmed that they had written to the charity requiring an action plan.

“If we are not satisfied with the response from the charity trustees we reserve the right to intervene under section 74 of the Charities Act 2009 to ensure the charity is protected.”

Section 74 provides the Charities Regulator with the power to apply to the High Court for a range of measures to protect a charity.

The regulator asked that, in their action plan, Ataxia Ireland address some of the following issues:

  • The regulator wanted the charity trustees to determine if the payments made to the two founding former trustees are recoverable
  • Develop, document and implement suitable procedures for the recruitment of senior roles
  • Implement more formal monitoring and reporting arrangements in respect of the role of the CEO;
  • Agree and implement a formal arrangement with the CEO to recover the overpayment of employee pension contributions.

It is not clear if the action plan forwarded by Ataxia Ireland addresses any or all of the issues highlighted.

Barbara Flynn declined to comment when contacted today and said it was a "matter for the board" of Ataxia Ireland.

Independent.ie has contacted the board for a comment.

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