Monday, September 6, 2010

Independent accounting firm appointed to investigate Irish Red Cross donations according to Sunday Independent newspaper

Ireland's biggest selling Sunday newspaper, the Sunday Independent, has reported (in its 5th September 2010 edition) that 'an independent accounting firm has been appointed to investigate how €162,000 of donations to victims of the Asian Tsunami went untouched for over three years in a Tipperary bank account'. According to the newspaper report the Irish Red Cross has said "it has nothing to hide". The article, written by Sunday Independent Chief Reporter, Daniel McConnell, led with the headline 'Accountants hired to probe Irish Red Cross donations'.

McConnell went on to write 'The move by the Irish Red Cross to appoint independent accountants comes despite it knowing about the "administrative error" for over two years, and has occurred only since it has been the subject of intense media scrutiny'. Ted Noonan, who according to the Sunday Independent is now the Acting Chairperson of the Irish Red Cross in the absence Mr. Tony Lawlor (whose Irish Red Cross branch controlled the Tipperary tsunami account in which the money was found' and who is "on leave for a few weeks"), confirmed 'that an independent firm of accountants would investigate the Tipperary bank account mystery but the name of the firm was not disclosed'. The Sunday Independent did not indicate who would partake in the investigation and it is not yet clear whether current and former staff and board members will be invited for interview as part of the process.

The Sunday Independent also refers to an internal memo sent by the Acting Chairman, Ted Noonan, which according to the newspaper contains the following remarkable sentence "to have the communities we serve question our integrity and motives is an insult to everyone in the Irish Red Cross...".

Mr. Noonan continued 'that the questions in the media have "caused real hurt and embarrassment" to Irish Red Cross members but he did admit that the response to such questions "has been slow and in some cases silent".

McConnell then addressed the Chairman issue stating 'The Society has been without a chairman since last November or a full-time secretary general for several months. Declan O' Sullivan is acting secretary general following on from a period in which he acted as a financial consultant to the Irish Red Cross-at a cost of €320,000 over two years'.

The internal Irish Red Cross memo according to the Sunday Independent 'also sought to address deep criticisms of Sheila Callan, a senior volunteer who appeared on a recent RTE Prime Time Investigates program about the Irish Red Cross. "Some of you expressed concerns that Sheila was not prepared for the interview. This is completely incorrect and apologies have already been made to Sheila for any such unintentional inference", Mr. Noonan said'.

In addition to the above mentioned Sunday Independent article the Sunday Times (5th September 2010, page 11) also carried an article on the Irish Red Cross. This article is written below in full:

Charity has no defence against officialdom

Those calling for reform of the Irish Red Cross say it needs to assert its independence from the Department of Defence. An email from last April, released under the Freedom of Information act (bless it!), demonstrates just how heavy falls the hand of officialdom on the charity's shoulder.

In the email David Lawler, a principal officer in the department, gives instructions to the Red Cross's secretary about a press release planned by the charity. His suggestions include altering a quote by Tony Lawlor, the Red Cross's vice-chairman, and changing several references to the government. "It would be better to ask the minister for defence directly in a future meeting rather than through a press release", he advises in relation to one issue.

Of course, all the proposals are couched civilly, and Lawler accepts that the charity "can issue a press release of its own volition and content". Just so long as that content is to the Department of Defence's liking, it would appear. ENDS

3 comments:

  1. Anonymous3:57 AM

    Is it just me or does the Irish Red Cross look like a rabbit caught in headlights? They seem to stumble from one crisis to the next with the Prime Time fiasco being the ultimate cringe inducing embarrassment. And as for Eoghan Harris's claim in the Sunday Independent that the Irish Red Cross was financing the provisional IRA in 1970!!! What else is this organisation hiding? No wonder Jimmy Deenihan, Fine Gael, called for an independent investigation when he was on Prime Time.

    During July and August the Irish Red Cross issued press releases saying they had no case to answer about the Tipperary Bank account and that it had been investigated at the time and that is was only an 'administrative error'. They said as much again on Prime Time. Now the Sunday Independent tells us the Irish Red Cross have appointed an 'independent' firm of accountants to investigate the Tipperary bank account 'mystery'. So that means Irish Red Cross press releases and their Prime Time interview were all incorrect then? If so someone must be held accountable.

    Wouldnt everyone love to know how much of donor and public money will be paid to this firm to 'independently' investigate the Tipperary bank account and the role played in it by various people. Add this fee to the tens of thousands of euros and possibly hundreds of thousands of euros of donor and public money already getting spent on solicitors, barristers, numerous consultants, the ongoing legal case against Google etc. Is there any way members of the public can request the total amount of money spent by the Irish Red Cross on legal fees, consultants, IT forensics experts and now 'independent' accountants?? Does the government know, can they not intervene to stop money being spent in this way? It has to be without doubt that the figure is astronomical and based on Irish Red Cross history they will be afraid to reveal such information as they know they could never justify it and heads would role if the true figures were known.

    Who hired these 'independent' accountants? Which firm are they? Was it advertised beforehand? Was there a selection process, a review/selection committee (if so who was on it), following submissions of proposals from a range of accountancy firms, a review of various accountancy firm skills and fees? Who will this 'chosen' firm report to? Will it report to the same people it is supposed to be investigating? How can this be an 'independent' investigation when those to be investigated have hired the firm in the first place? Those who have hired the firm have sanctioned all previous press releases and the Prime Time interviews saying there was no issue with Tipperary bank account, now they have changed their tune because of media pressure and Noel Wardick's revelations.

    Will Jennifer Bulbulia be interviewed by the 'independent' accounting firm as according to the Sunday Times the Tipp bank account was one of the reasons she resigned because of the Board's failure to investigate the matter at the time? Will Carmel Dunne, previous Secretary General until 2007 be interviewed? Will John Roycroft, Secretary General between 2007 and 2009 be interviewed? Will Noel Wardick, the author of this blog and Director of Overseas Operations and whistle blower on Irish Red Cross be interviewed? If not then once again the Irish Red Cross will be spending thousands of euros for nothing and the 'independent' invesigation will be a sham.

    By the way does anyone know what has happened to the Irish Red Cross (former???) Acting Chairman, Tony Lawlor or where he has gone? Now someone called Ted Noonan is Acting Chair and the Sunday Independent says Lawlor is "on a few weeks extended leave". Classic, only in Ireland!! Do they think we are all eejits?

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  2. Anonymous1:49 AM

    Excellent comment and very valuable questions you have raised.

    The internal policies and proceedures of the Irish Red Cross need to be reviewed immediatly and so do all senior office holders. An Emergency General Meeting should be called and the Executive Committee replaced. With the new Committee having clear guidelines set out by the members as to their exact roles and responsibilities. A fixed term should be clealy set out and no extension should be granted allowing new and fresh people to progress to this "Elite" committee. Clear and consise reporting proceedures need to be put in place and most importantly the new and seemingly foreign concept of "accountability" needs to be brought to the Irish Red Cross.

    The road to the top in the Irish Red Cross needs to be opened up to all the hard working and dedicated volunteers on the ground. How can an organisation ever progress for the better of everyone when the "Executive" remain their in their private cocoon for decades.

    We see the Vice Chairman is now on extended leave and is replaced by not a new and motivated fresh to the table member, no, we just move the treasurer to the post keeping it again in the nice tight knit community we all know and love called the "Executive members"

    "As a rose bush grows and we tend to its small branches, we cut off the decay in the hope new branches will grow, not replace it with other decaying branches"

    Its time to tend to the decaying branches in the Irish Red Cross

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  3. Anonymous10:06 AM

    When are those responsible for monies donated to the Irish Red Cross going to be interviewed??

    Why has the former and current Treasurers been brought forward to answer questions as to why this money was left in bank accounts and not showing on their annual reports? An immediate external investigation is exactly what this organisation needs and anyone found guilty of wrong doing should be handed over to the correct authorities and the full arm of the law extended to them.

    May the auditors find every hidden cent and get rid of those responsible.

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