Saturday, January 2, 2010

Undeclared Irish Red Cross Tsunami Bank Account: those responsible need to explain their actions

On 26th December 2004 a massive earthquake struck off the coast of Indonesia which caused a tsunami that led to the death of nearly a quarter of a million people. The Irish Red Cross immediately launched an appeal and an unprecedented response from the Irish public followed. Over €30 million was raised. As reported in the November edition of the Village Magazine not all of this money was declared and handed over to the Irish Red Cross head office in Dublin, as should have happened.

The Village Magazine reported that '...several local Irish Red Cross branches have established bank accounts that they do not declare to head office-to avoid having to forward the money to head office. The Vice Chairman of the IRC, Mr. Tony Lawlor, and his Tipperary branch, kept one such bank account in Tipperary for nearly four years with €150,000 in it. This money was collected for the Asian tsunami in early 2005 from the general public, but was never declared to head office and was only submitted to Dublin in late 2008, following its discovery by head office. The Vice Chairman was never asked to explain publicly how so much money could remain in an undeclared bank account for nearly four years, and why it was not sent to the overseas department of the organisation for use in its tsunami work. The Chairman, David Andrews, and the Secretary General did not ensure the matter became public. Indeed the Executive Committee and Central Council have never been informed about this matter. A source told Village that some head office staff were furious. Nothing has happened and as far as the Chairman, Secretary General and Head of Finance are concerned, the matter is closed....'.

A number of questions need to be answered by Mr. Lawlor concerning this matter and they should be documented and put on record in order for the Central Council of the organisation to deliberate on them and decide on an appropriate course of action to prevent such a situation ever arising again. Suggested questions for Mr. Lawlor and others are:

1. Why was the €150,000 collected from the general public for the Asian Tsunami kept in an undeclared Tipperary bank acount for nearly four years? Mr. Lawlor is the main signatory to this account. Why did Mr. Lawlor not transfer this money to the Irish Red Cross in Dublin and only do so following the discovery of the account four years after the money was collected.

2. Mr. Lawlor only brought the bank account to the attention of the then Secretary General, Mr. John Roycroft, after he became aware of an internal investigation launched by Mr. Roycroft and Mr. Declan O' Sullivan, then Acting Head of Finance, now Acting Secretary General. This investigation was launched following rumours circulating internally about numerous undeclared bank accounts involving a number of branches.

3. If the above bank account had not been discovered following the investigation how long would the €150,000 have remained undeclared and what did Mr. Lawlor/Tipperay Branch intend to do with the money? How many other members of the Tipperary Branch were aware of this undeclared account?

4. What actions were taken by the then Chairman, David Andrews, the then Secretary General, John Roycroft and the then Acting Head of Finance, Declan O' Sullivan once the discovery was made?

5. Why exactly was the matter not formally brought before the Executive Committee and then to the Central Council of the Irish Red Cross for consideration and action? Most Board members only became aware of the matter after reading it in the Village magazine article. Who took the decision to keep the matter quiet and not pursue it any further?

6. Now that the matter has been documented and written about in a national publication will the Executive Committee of the Irish Red Cross investigate the matter and report to the Central Council? Will the recently appointed Acting Secretary General, Mr. O' Sullivan, have any role in such an investigation given his role in the matter to date?

7. Did other senior managers know about this matter and if so why did they remain silent?

8. Is the practise of not declaring branch bank accounts and not transfering money collected locally to the head office of the Irish Red Cross widespread? What procedures are being put in place to eliminate such practises?

Since the revelations first appeared in the Village Magazine in November 2009 both the Chairman, David Andrews and the Secretary General, John Roycroft, have tendered their resignations and both have now left the organisation. Declan O' Sullivan was appointed by the Executive Committee as Acting Secretary General in December 2009 for a period of eighteen months. Insiders say in reality Mr. O' Sullivan was appointed by Mr. Tony Lawlor with the Executive Committee rubber stamping the decision.

It would appear there is a very concerted effort to have the Tipperary tsunami bank account issue go away without those responsible being held to account for their actions. The reluctance to properly address it and recent insinuations in the Phoenix magazine and Village magazine as well as an article earlier in the year in the Sunday Independent lead many to believe the Tipperay tsunami bank account is only the tip of the iceberg.

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