Friday 6 December 2019

Red Cross says sorry for €163,000 tsunami cash error

Grainne Cunningham

THE Irish Red Cross has apologised to donors for organisational 'failures' which led to €162,960 in donations for tsunami victims lying unused in a bank account for over three years.

In a personalised letter to all supporters, secretary-general Donal Forde said he was "truly sorry" to anyone who "felt let down, even angry" by the "poor financial management" which caused the problem.

An internal review, conducted after details of the dormant account became public in 2010, led to the uncovering of 49 unreported accounts holding €214,000. Of these, the Tipperary account, which held more than €160,000, was the most significant.

The frank findings of the review, published on the organisation's website this week, noted that it was "an accident waiting to happen" and had arisen because of a combination of inadequate staffing at local levels, outdated financial systems and a high turnover of employees at senior level.

The Red Cross said the issue of the dormant funds was "a matter of huge regret" but stressed: "No monies went missing in any way."

The organisation also pointed out that the communities in South East Asia which were affected by the tsunami had not lost out in any way as the Asian Tsunami Appeal was being spent over an eight-year period.

"With hindsight, we now know it would have been wiser to employ more staff, especially finance staff, to help with managing and controlling such a large appeal fund," the Red Cross stated on its website.

More robust systems were installed in 2007 and the organisation has introduced strict financial guidelines, structures and rules "to prevent anything like this ever recurring", it said.


Commenting on calls for an external investigation, the statement said: "Perhaps we could have done something like this." But it adds: "There seems little gain in doing so now."

The Red Cross also confirms that a board member was a signatory to the Tipperary account, which, it says, "clearly does not look good -- but something not looking good isn't in itself a reason someone should resign."

Commenting on blog claims that €600,000 raised for Haiti had been "kept back", it speculated that this accusation may have arisen from a misunderstanding around "unattributable donations".

Irish Independent

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