Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Emergency General Assembly urgently required at Irish Red Cross

This Blog is calling for the convening of an urgent emergency General Assembly of the Irish Red Cross in order to discuss the damaging and ongoing crisis within the Society. The status quo cannot remain and those responsible for the status quo must consider their positions.

The last time the Irish Red Cross held a General Assembly (GA) of all members was in October 2005, nearly five years ago. For members not familiar with the rules and regulations of the Irish Red Cross the Society is supposed to hold a General Assembly of all members every two years. Therefore a General Assembly was scheduled for 2007 and 2009, neither of which took place. The one in 2007 was provisionally arranged but following the disgraceful dismissal of the then Secretary General the ruling elite on the Executive decided to cancel it. No plans were ever put in place to re-arrange the 2007 GA or convene one in 2009. This is without question a failure of governance and is purposely done to consolidate power and prevent open and transparent debate. This Blog has previously reported that the Central Council meeting planned for February 2010 did not take place, once again because the ruling elite fear and know they will be rigorously challenged and will be asked to account for many of their questionable actions. Not least of these is the Vice Chairman's (currently Acting Chairman) failure to declare a bank account to head office until it was discovered in 2008 following an internal audit and which contained over €150,000 collected in 2005 for victims of the Tsunami. Surely the failure to hold two General Assemblies and one Central Council meeting over the last few years is indicative of a governance culture that is damaged to its core?

Once convened an emergency General Assembly, in the view of this Blog which has consulted with numerous members around the country, should have on its agenda the following priority issues:

1. The undeclared Tipperary Bank Account issue referred to above and written extensively about in this Blog (see article dated January 2nd 2010). The Vice Chairman/Acting Chairman must be asked to account for his actions. He must be asked to explain to members why he failed to A. Declare the account and money contained therein to Head Office for nearly four years. He only transferred the money to head office in late 2008 (the money was collected from the public in early 2005) following the bank account's discovery during an internal audit and B. Why he feels his actions/inaction do not amount to at a minimum a resigning offence.

2. Further to the above the emergency GA should consider the actions of those who became aware of the undeclared bank account and what action they took or did not take once it was discovered. The three people who knew about the account and decided no investigation should take place and who also decided NOT to inform the Executive Committee at the time were the former Chairman, former Secretary General and former Acting Head of Finance/Consultant who is now temporarily Acting Secretary General. The former two have subsequently resigned from the organisation (December 2009) while the latter remains employed. It would appear to this Blog that not only was there a massive failure on the part of a senior Board member in neglecting to declare or hand over such a large amount of public funding there was also a secondary failure on the part of those who discovered the undeclared bank account. At the very least the Acting Secretary General needs to account for and explain his role in decisions that were taken as he is currently serving in the most senior staffing capacity of the organisation.

3. Continuing with the above questions must be asked of the Finance Department and what has been their role in this affair. Admittedly the current Acting Secretary General was Acting Head of Finance/Consultant at the time so the current Head of Finance cannot be tarnished unduly by this matter. Nevertheless one must ask is the Finance Department now asking for an internal investigation into the matter and if not why not? A similar question needs to be asked of the Head of the Overseas Department. The money collected from the Tipperary public was destined for his Department as it was in response to the 2005 Tsunami Appeal. While no doubt the Overseas Department was relieved to recover such a large some of money did the Head of the Department question why the money sat in an undeclared bank in Tipperary for four years? Again if not why not? It is unacceptable to this Blog if senior managers within the Irish Red Cross feel they can put their heads in the sand on matters of such importance and just hope they will go away.

4. Another key issue for discussion at the emergency GA is the organisational deficit, its size and who is responsible for causing it. Blaming the recession and economic crisis is, in the view of this Blog, a convenient smokescreen, for massive incompetence and neglect. In 2008 and 2009 certain individuals were paid vast sums of monies in consultancy fees and salaries and still they managed to oversee the biggest organisational financial crisis the Irish Red Cross has faced in its seventy year history.

5. Consultancy Fees: as reported on a number of occasions in this Blog the Irish Red Cross has an enormous propensity for spending huge sums of money on consultancy fees. This has been going on for years. The General Assembly must insist on a detailed breakdown of monies spent on consultancy fees over the last ten/twenty years as well as a detailed explanation from the Executive why they have authorised such outrageous waste.

6. The whole issue of Governance needs to be discussed and debated openly and without fear of consequence or threat. As per previous article on this Blog Executive members who have served for more than twelve years should be asked to step down at the end of their current term (May 2010) and not present themselves for re-election again. This would allow for the desperately needed rejuvenation of the Society. As written in this Blog in a previous article there are only three members of Executive who have served between twelve and twenty years so their departure would in no way negatively affect continuity or institutional knowledge.

7. The appointment of a permanent and properly qualified Secretary General. As one member put it to this Blog 'no-one knows why the current situation is allowed prevail. It is unhelpful to continue with this lengthy delay in appointing a sufficiently experienced person to the crucial post of Secretary General. Most people I speak to feel the current impasse on appointing a new permanent Secretary General is designed solely to protect the ruling elite on the Executive who all know the first task of any incoming Secretary General will be to tackle once and for all their unacceptable power base'

8. This Blog would support the following motion being put to the emergency General Assembly: "The members of the Irish Red Cross fully support recent calls for a full independent investigation into the affairs of the organisation over the last two decades and wish to see such an investigation commence as soon as possible"

9. The emergency GA should also call on the Irish Government to immediately and without further delay appoint a credible and reputable Chairperson to the Irish Red Cross. The current leadership vacuum is proving very destablising.

This Blog and all those members of the Irish Red Cross who are determined to correct and address the ills of the organisation hope that members and volunteers around the country will demand the holding of an emergency General Assembly which will then hopefully be the catalyst for much need reform. Calls for change must come from the members and volunteers themselves. No-one else can do it for them. The ruling elite have much to fear from an independent investigation and more worryingly they have alot to hide. It is for this reason they refuse to countenance it.

On a separate matter:

This Blog has read the comment posted on the Flood Cheques Taxation article. To clarify: this Blog did not receive any queries from those people who received the cheques. The Blog, however, did receive queries from certain members asking the question about the tax liability status of the cheques. Many members, who must remain a tight circle of people, are committed to changing and reforming the organisation, are in touch regularly on all these matters with the Blog authors. As far as this Blog has learned those in receipt of the flood cheques are in fact liable to pay tax on them. Another monumental error by the Irish Red Cross in failing to obtain tax expemption status from the Revenue Authorities in advance.

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