Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Questions Irish Red Cross Board members need to ask and seek answers to at June 12th Central Council Meeting

On June 12th 2010 the Irish Red Cross will hold the first of its twice yearly Central Council meetings. The mid-year meeting is particularly important as its sees the annual election of the Executive Committee, the sub-committee of the Central Council which meets on a monthly basis and oversees the Secretary General and staff. Twice a year the Central Council meets. The Executive Committee reports back to the Board on the previous six months. Unfortunately, however, over the last twenty years the Central Council has lost virtually all its power and influence as control of the Irish Red Cross is now firmly in the iron grip of one or two Executive Committee members. Central Council has been disenfranchised completely in recent years. One member familiar with all the players summed it up ‘over a period of twelve to fifteen years Central Council has become less and less influential as one or two individuals on Executive gained more and more power and over time nullified all opposition. These individuals now run the Irish Red Cross as if it was their own personal empire. Central Council members need to urgently reassert themselves and regain control of the organisation and in particular the Executive. I hope Central Council members will once and for all face up to this responsibility and drive through both reform and personnel change. Failure to do so would be remiss’.

The Blog authors and its numerous contributors have put together the following list of questions that we believe require immediate answers. We would ask that Central Council members seek answers to these questions and that they begin this process by asking each and every one of these questions at the Central Council meeting on June 12th and putting them to Mr. Tony (Anthony) Lawlor, Acting Vice Chairman and Mr. Declan O'Sullivan, Acting Secretary General. Questions as follows:

1. In late 2008, following an internal audit conducted secretly, it was discovered that the Vice Chairman of the Irish Red Cross had an undeclared bank account in the name of the Irish Red Cross with over €150,000 in it. Following the discovery of this account it transpired that the money had been collected from the Irish public in early 2005 for the victims of the Tsunami. This money was not transferred to head office in Dublin, as it should have been as per Irish Red Cross policy, where it would have been spent on its intended purpose. This money was never declared to head office and for nearly four years it sat in a bank account in Tipperary. The Vice Chairman needs to be asked to explain his actions to Central Council and to state why he believes his actions did not warrant his immediate resignation in late 2008 when the money was discovered. Central Council must have this matter independently investigated. Following an investigation and its findings/recommendations Central Council, and only Central Council, must decide on an appropriate course of action. The failure to address this matter openly and transparently has been very damaging to the reputation of the Irish Red Cross externally as well as destroying morale internally.
2. Regarding the above, Central Council must ask why no investigation has taken place to date and why the information was never made known to Central Council and Executive members at the time? The information only became public knowledge when reported on by the Irish media.
3. Why do Executive Committee members who have served more than twelve years (and three have served nearly twenty years) feel they should continue in office when globally accepted good governance practice recommends that two terms in office of approximately 3/4 years each should be the maximum? These ‘ruling elite’ members should take the opportunity to step aside and allow fresh blood and new ideas take the Irish Red Cross forward.
4. The Governance Reform proposals sent to the Irish Government contain no provisions for including the back dating of service meaning that Executive members who have already served up to twenty years will be allowed continue in office for at least another six years and then only have to step down for one year before being eligible to serve again for another six years. These so called ‘governance reform proposals’ are derisory and are designed to see the ruling elite retain power indefinitely. Central Council should demand the recalling from Government of the ‘proposals’ while an independent expert on governance reform is hired to oversee an entirely new and objective process.
5. Why has there been no General Assembly of all members since 2005? A General Assembly is supposed to be held by the Irish Red Cross every two years but one was not held in 2007 or in 2009. Central Council should decide on a date in 2010 for a General Assembly and instruct Executive and the Acting Secretary General to begin preparations to hold it.
6. Why was the specially planned Central Council meeting scheduled for February 2010 cancelled? The November 2009 Central Council meeting decided to hold a special Council meeting in February 2010 but certain Executive members unilaterally decided to cancel it. These members to not have the authority to over ride a Central Council decision and this they must be urgently reminded of.
7. Central Council should instruct Executive to immediately open the post for a permanent Secretary General. An independent and specialised recruitment firm should be hired to oversee the process. Price WaterHouse Coopers (PWC) has been used in the past and provided a top level professional service. The Irish Red Cross has not had a permanent Secretary General since the departure of Carmel Dunne in mid 2007. The constant flux and uncertainty around the top staffing position has been very unhelpful on many levels. John Roycroft, a consummate professional, was nevertheless a temporary ‘on loan’ appointment from the Department of Justice and the current Acting Secretary General is due to be replaced in the latter half of 2010 (as per Irish Red Cross press releases last December, at the time of the two resignations of the then Chairman, David Andrews and Secretary General, John Roycroft).
8. How much money has the Irish Red Cross spent on external consultants in the last decade? How many consultants is the Irish Red Cross currently paying? At the very least there are three, in the shape of a Communications Consultant, a Web Consultant and a Human Resource/Industrial Relations Consultant (who it is understood is used on a near daily basis by the Acting Secretary General as he scrambles to fire fight the chaotic industrial relations environment that has been created over the last six months). In addition to these three consultants this Blog has been informed that all four staff made redundant in January 2010 were all re-hired immediately on consultancy contracts. This despite receiving generous redundancy packages.
9. Regarding consultants it is very important the Central Council ask who authorised the payment of over €300,000 between 2008 and 2009 to the then Consultant Acting Head of Finance (now Acting Secretary General).
10. Central Council members may or may not be aware that the Irish Red Cross owns numerous properties around the country. These properties have accumulated over the years and have mostly come into the possession of the Irish Red Cross from wills. These properties have never been recorded in the accounts of the Irish Red Cross. This is contrary to accounting practice and the Irish Red Cross has been regularly reprimanded by its auditors for failing to adhere to proper practice on this. Property bequeathed in wills must be treated as income in financial accounts. The Irish Red Cross has failed to do this. Central Council members need to get a list outlining every single property owned by the Irish Red Cross as well as each property’s address, specifications, current use and present market value. It is understood that there are in excess of eighteen/nineteen properties currently owned by the Society but not properly accounted for in the organisation’s financial accounts.
11. Regarding the above, Central Council needs to demand a detailed plan for these properties be prepared including an outline of who is managing this extensive property portfolio, is the Irish Red Cross ensuring it is earning and investing income as a result of these properties, why were these properties not sold during the housing boom and the funds re-invested in the activities of the organisation at home and overseas, how will the properties be used in the future, are all the properties adequately insured and why has this property portfolio been kept a secret for so many years. Central Council should direct Executive to immediately hire a firm of property management specialists to professionally and competently handle this matter on behalf of the Irish Red Cross.
12. For twenty five years staff and members have regularly expressed serious concern that when there are large Appeals for disasters not all funds raised go to that appeal and that a significant portion of the monies raised goes into the general accounts of the Irish Red Cross and so the wishes of the donors/public are ignored. There are newspaper articles going back as far as the mid 80’s and the 90’s raising serious questions on this matter (Irish Times 15th April 1985, Irish Times 1st May 1985, Irish Times 2nd May 1985, Irish Times 26th May 1993, Irish Times 28th February 1998, Irish Times 24th November 1999 as but examples). These concerns are as valid today as they were back then and it is the view of this Blog that any independent analysis of Irish Red Cross allocation of funds policy would reveal this practice is alive and well in addition to exposing the organisation to incalculable reputational damage. The practice, therefore, must be ended immediately.
13. Central Council should write and sign a letter to the Minister for Defence, Tony Killeen, requesting that he appoint a suitably qualified and experienced Chairperson to the Irish Red Cross immediately. The absence of a strong and respected Chair for the last six months has only served to deepen the governance and leadership crisis at the Society.
14. Central Council should support the numerous calls by Fine Gael and Labour for a full, comprehensive and detailed Independent Investigation into the affairs of the Irish Red Cross. This must be the starting point for the organisation’s recovery.
15. Central Council must demand explanations for the dramatic deterioration in relations between staff and the Acting Secretary General resulting in three appearances before the Labour Court in six months, constant meetings with trade unions on numerous issues that would previously have been handled without creating a crisis and the near permanent recruitment by the Acting Secretary General of an expensive HR/Industrial Relations Consultant to advise him on the ever deepening mess. Central Council must address the worrying atmosphere of fear that exists amongst staff at head office. Management by fear is a sure sign of failure and inability.
16. Central Council must insist on the development of an overall Irish Red Cross three or five year strategy. It is a damning indictment on the Irish Red Cross that it does not have a three or five year strategic plan but instead operates in a vacuum of ad hoc and reactive decision making lacking vision and foresight. For three years Central Council has been told the development of a strategic plan ‘is in process’ but despite the passage of time one never appears. An organisational long term strategy must be one of the top priorities for the permanent Secretary General upon his/her recruitment later this year.

This Blog wishes the Central Council members well for their meeting and deliberations on June 12th.

3 comments:

  1. Anonymous4:32 PM

    It is great that the Irish Red Cross membership can see past your childish, sad jibes at this wonderful organisation. Word going around is that you are asking members to do your dirty work as you don't have the balls to do it your self. Well guess what WE ARE NOT GOING TO DO IT, get a life you sad excuse of a person. I am delighted your blog back fired at today's council meeting. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

    now crawl back under the rock you came out of. :)

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  2. Anonymous7:11 AM

    Here here!!! its a pity that the blog writer could not take it upon themselves to come out and stand up for what they believe in. Instead the blogger hides behide this blog and makes to effort to cause the change they believe is so badly needed.

    If u want a hand lifting that rock while u call under give me a call!!!!

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  3. Anonymous1:05 PM

    I would venture that the authors of the above comments know better than anyone that the contents of this blog are entirely true.
    The arrogant, self satisfied tone is clearly that of two people (or more likely one) who feel that they have "gotten away with it" again. It is both infuriating and saddening that they would take such pleasure and pride in damaging an organisation that people have put such trust, time and hard work in to. It is the arrogance of corruption and a culture of fear, intimidation and willful ignorance that threatens the organisation, not any newspaper articles or blog posts. While I may not always agree with the way that the authors of this blog approach matters, I am glad that there is a forum to draw attention to the appalling behaviour and actions of the individuals who see the Irish Red Cross as an outlet for their personal ambitions and inadequacies.

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