Saturday 20 January 2018

Senior Goal managers are hit with corruption allegations

Goal had been due to receive the cash in July of this year for long-term development work in several African countries. However, it was withheld due to a US investigation into international aid operations in Syria. Photo: PA
Goal had been due to receive the cash in July of this year for long-term development work in several African countries. However, it was withheld due to a US investigation into international aid operations in Syria. Photo: PA
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Former members of Goal's senior management team are alleged to have been directly engaged in corruption and conflicts of interest, the foreign aid charity has acknowledged.

The disclosure was made in an administrative agreement signed by Goal and USAID, the US government's foreign aid arm in recent days.

The agreement finally draws a line under the controversy surrounding the suspension of US funding for certain aspects of Goal's aid programme in Syria last year after a probe was launched into allegations of bid-rigging by suppliers.

It came after USAID accepted assurances from Goal about changes to its corporate governance and internal controls.

The deal paves the way for tens of millions of dollars in US funding to be awarded to Goal for humanitarian programmes in Syria and elsewhere over the next two years.

Two Turkish-based staff were fired last year after the investigation was launched by the Office of the Inspector General in the US. But a preamble to the new aid agreements states that allegations of corrupt activities stretched much further.

"Actors alleged to be directly engaged in corruption and conflicts of interest included both field office staff and members of Goal's senior management team," it said.

"Goal represents that all individuals alleged to be involved in the corruption scheme have since terminated their involvement with Goal."

Several senior figures have left Goal in the past year. While some had a connection to the Syria debacle, others left for unconnected reasons.

The highest profile departure was that of chief executive Barry Andrews. The Irish Independent is aware that there is absolutely no suggestion he was involved in the alleged corruption.

The document contains strict terms and conditions which Goal must abide by and the agreement can be terminated early at USAID's discretion.

It stated USAID had "ongoing concerns" about certain issues which Goal accepted remained a problem.

It said: "Goal accepts and acknowledges responsibility for procurement system weaknesses, mishandling of conflicts of interest, and an inadequate investigative function that compromised the integrity of its USAID-funded awards."

Under the terms of the agreement Goal will have to pay reparations to USAID for any money lost as a result of the alleged procurement irregularities, which are under investigation.

Goal believes the transaction at the heart of the US investigation amounts to €172,000, but that figure could rise or fall depending on the outcome of the inquiry.

Reparation

A plan is to be put in place to make the reparation payments in instalments.

An independent consultant will also have to be hired at Goal's expense to monitor its compliance with the agreement.

Despite the stringent terms and conditions, the agreement comes as a major shot in the arm for the embattled charity, which was left reeling by the controversy.

A fall off in funding led to the announcement of job losses, the closure of programmes, a major reform action plan and merger talks with Oxfam.

"The finalisation of the administrative agreement is very welcome and has come about after a long process of review and consultation with officials from USAID," Goal general manager Celine Fitzgerald said.

"It is a significant step forward for Goal in terms of allowing us to resume a normal working relationship with US funders.

"The conditions and obligations set out in the agreement are thorough, but, in view of the challenges faced by Goal over the past year, we believe that they are fair and proportionate."

Irish Independent

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