Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Ireland's leading daily newspaper carries Editorial on Irish Red Cross problems while Transparency International calls for independent review

Irish Independent carries Editorial on Irish Red Cross problems and Transparency International press release calls for independent review of Ireland’s national Red Cross Society.

Following the recent intense political and media attention on the endemic problems within the Irish Red Cross (see recent Blog articles for details) the Irish Independent newspaper, Ireland’s biggest selling week day publication, has carried an extremely important editorial on the Irish Red Cross (in its 27th October 2010 edition). The full transcript of this editorial can be found later in this article.

On 26th October 2010 Transparency International-Ireland issued a press release nationally and internationally announcing the publication of its Corruption Perception Index 2010. In this press release it specifically references the situation prevailing at the Irish Red Cross. For those readers not familiar with Transparency International it is a global organisation that monitors and reports on corruption and abuse of power around the world. It has offices in many countries including one in Dublin. The Corruption Perceptions Index is published annually by Transparency International and measures international business and expert perceptions of levels of public sector corruption around the world. Six surveys conducted by think tanks including the World Economic Forum and the Economist Intelligence Unit were used in compiling Ireland’s results. It says much about the state of play at the Irish Red Cross when it is specifically mentioned in Transparency International-Ireland’s press release. Extracts from the press release and a link to the full release are contained further down in this article.

The Irish Independent editorial of 27th October 2010 is transcribed below in full:

Whistleblowers need protection

What a relief: Ireland is not corrupt after all. Well, not too corrupt anyway, when compared to the likes of Somalia and Afghanistan. AQ corruption index, which is compiled by Transparency International, places Ireland as 14th least corrupt country. It all sounds rather academic until we hear John Devitt of the Irish branch of Transparency criticise the Government’s failure to adequately protect whistleblowers who expose misbehaviour within organisations. Such people run the risk of being sacked or sued in return for acting in the public interest. The organisation draws particular attention to the case of Noel Wardick who was suspended from his position in the Irish Red Cross (IRC) after he revealed himself as the author of a blog which alleged issues of poor governance and financial irregularities at the charity. The Minister for Defence, Tony Killeen, has repeatedly refused to get involved, despite the fact that Mr. Wardick seems likely to be declared guilty of misconduct and sacked.

At the heart of the extraordinary affair is €162,000 of donations which lay idle in a Tipperary bank account for three years. An inquiry by outside accountants was launched by the IRC, only to be quickly abandoned on the basis of cost and replaced with an internal probe which has been criticised in the Dail as being simply not credible.

An independent inquiry into the allegations and the mysterious case of the Tipperary bank account would seem to be the only way the IRC can ensure that its excellent reputation remains unblemished.
Ends

Extracts from the Transparency International-Ireland press release are below:

Transparency welcomed the recent anti-corruption investigations led by the Criminal Assets Bureau but criticised the Government’s current approach to whistleblower protection which only protects employees in selected categories. The anti-corruption group claims that people working across the public, private and non-profit sectors continue to be exposed to dismissal or legal reprisals for reporting concerns in the public interest.

Transparency has also called on the Irish Red Cross (IRC) to set a good example for other non-profit organisations by commissioning an independent review of claims made by its Head of International Department, Noel Wardick and by suspending its disciplinary action against him until the findings of an independent review are published. Mr. Wardick publicly aired his concerns about financial mismanagement and governance at the charity, and has been suspended since August of this year.

“Employers should do the right thing by those who honestly report their concerns and act on the information at hand. The Irish Red Cross is not the only organisation to have faced the kind of challenges that Mr. Wardick has claimed it faces. It would be a shame if his reports were to end in his dismissal”, said Mr. Devitt, Director of Transparency International-Ireland.
Ends

The link to the full Transparency International press release is:

http://www.transparency.ie/news_events/cpi2010.htm

The Irish Times of 27th October, page 18 (Business Section) also carried a report on the Irish Red Cross situation and the Corruption Index. The article is based on the Transparency International press release.

In addition to all of the above commentary on the Irish Red Cross on one of Ireland’s leading web discussion forums, www.boards.ie is alive and well. The exact link is below:

http://www.boards.ie/vbulletin/showthread.php?t=2056016355&highlight=Irish+Cross

13 comments:

  1. Newly following this story, best of luck =)

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  2. Anonymous9:30 AM

    Is there any truth in the rumour that a leading publisher in the UK is interested in doing a book on the history of the Irish Red Cross and how the Society deals with its probelms....

    I certainly would like to be put on the advance order list !

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  3. Anonymous12:36 PM

    I have to say that as a parent I am unwilling to have my children Contemplate joining the Red Cross. Whilst I would like them to learn First Aid, obviously this task can be obtained from several reputable organisations. However, as a parent one prefers that our children know about honesty, good stewardship and above all self respect. I have found that all the qualities that one should expect of a humanitarian organisation appear to have been long forgotten in the Irish Red Cross. So would you expose your child to this envoirnment?

    The management of the Society have no respect for their employees, their staff and above all no respect for the victims of disasters which donors readily give money in the hope that this money will be used to directly assist people in need.

    Is this the vision the founders of the Red Cross had for their humanitarian organisation?

    A Society who refuses to be held accountable.

    What chance have our children to learn the correct way to be apart of a community when they are exposed to such behaviour from those that should know better!

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  4. Gerard McHale1:47 PM

    Noel

    I, like many other volunteers within the Irish Red Cross, have been following this blog
    with disappointment over the last number of months. I would like to note that I hope that
    your actions on this blog which are continuing to damage the organisation have been
    taken with the best interest of the Society at heart. This is not in my opinion however the
    best way for any organisation to deal with its difficulties, and neither is it something which
    should be discussed in our National Parliament. The Irish Red Cross is an independent
    auxiliary of Government, however it is not a part of Government, and indeed its
    decision making are is not subject to Government overview or control.

    The current inadequate outdated legislation which governs the Red Cross does imply that
    the Government could interfere, however this would risk breaching the Geneva Conventions
    and indeed would run contrary to the Movements principle of Independence and and this
    is not something that should be considered by any Government at any costs. Indeed where
    Governments around the world have interfered with the workings of National Societies this
    has been severely frowned upon by the International Movement and it is not something that anyone should encourage.

    The situation regarding your concern over the financial affairs of the IRC is indeed worrying, however this blog is not the place to raise them. It would have been
    better that you bring took these issues to the Executive Committee of the Society for
    investigation or indeed if you feel that this was not successful you should have raised these
    concerns with the Gardaí for investigation. These official channels would be more appropriate
    than airing opinions on an anonymous blog and presenting as facts things which have not
    been officially investigated and that can be by an internal investigation, one person making allegations does not constitute a need for a costly external investigation. It is the duties of the directors (executive) to ensure that the
    financial affairs of the IRC are well managed and to ensure that the accounts of the
    society give a true and fair view of the results and state of affairs of the Society. In the last
    number of years the auditors have continually given the financial accounts of the society
    an unqualified and therefore clean audit opinion implying that your comments regarding the
    financial affairs of the Society are unjustified.

    Regarding your comments regarding the Societies properties, it is true to say that the IRC has departed from the SoRP for charities in this regard. However the Society has clearly indicated this in its accounts and indeed this has not deterred the Societies auditors from signing a clean audit opinion. It is not uncommon for charities or companies to depart from SoRP's or accounting standards and it is the role of the auditors to decide if this departure has an impact on the accounts of the charity/company and in the case of the Irish Red Cross the auditors have decided that this is not the case.

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  5. Gerard McHale1:47 PM

    In relation to the comments on this blog regarding Central Council members, I am one of those Council members who have been so degraded for my so called lack of questioning and I would like to address these scurrilous comments briefly. It is not the responsibility of Council members to report or justify their actions to this blog. They report to their Areas and are elected by these Areas.
    If those members who have posted on this blog have concerns over the actions of their
    representatives on the Council they should follow the appropriate procedures and that is
    to raise their concerns at a local Branch meeting. If they have the support of a majority
    of the members their representatives on the Area Committee should then raise it at the
    next Area Meeting where the Area representative on Council would need to answer
    such concerns and the Branch representative could then report back to the next Branch
    meeting and to that member(s) who has raised the concern. This is the appropriate way to
    act, not posting on this blog. The Irish Red Cross is a very democratic organisation and all
    representatives are accountable to those who elect them and I am sure that council members
    will/have raised any concerns with the Executive members even if this has not been publicly
    broadcast (which indeed to should not be).

    There has been a lot of comment around payments to senior staff in the Irish Red Cross.
    If posters looked at the published accounts of other large charities such as Goal/Concern/
    Trocaire they would see that the payments which it has been suggested have been made to the IRC Sec Gen and not out of kilter with these payments. I would also suggest that these
    organisations have many senior staff on large wages and that the Irish Red Cross is not the
    only one who took the decision to use financial remuneration to try to attract the right staff to
    run the organisation.

    I would suggest that those who consistently post comments on this blog consider if this is the most effective way to raise concerns. If you are volunteers raise your concerns at a Branch level, if you are a donor talk to the fundraising team and if you are staff talk to
    the Acting Secretary General. Or, if you feel you cannot talk to the ASG then contact a
    Board Members as I know the Board have the best interests of the Society as their main
    concern and at the forefront of their decision making.

    I have taken the decision to comment as I am tired of the one sided nature of this blog.

    These are the facts as I see them and I would encourage people to maybe reconsider if their
    comments are really helping our great Movement.

    Gerard McHale

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  6. Anonymous12:40 AM

    Insinuations of mismanagement of public funds and misuse of donations by the public when will the Gardaí knock on some doors and ask some questions of all the Council members. After all they all share equal responsibility for what is happening mow and the events of the past.

    “We must also recognize that the failure to act when it is clear that action is required may itself be a negative action....inaction is attributable less to negative thoughts and emotions as to a lack of compassion”, Dalai Lama

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  7. Anonymous7:41 AM

    To: Gerard Mc Hale, Central Council Member, Irish Red Cross

    From: Noel Wardick, Head of International Department (suspended), Irish Red Cross

    Dear Gerard,

    Reference your two comments made above. Having worked for the Irish Red Cross for five years now and knowing intimately and at first hand how the organisation works and how it treats anybody who attempts to question or speak out I was most pleasantly surprised, nay shocked, that you have decided to document your views on record. While you are critical of the Blog and me I welcome with open arms your decision to comment on the record. I respect you for doing so. At least you have engaged with the many issues that have been raised on the blog. I would be very happy to meet with you in person, as I would any genuine and sincere Central Council or Executive Committee member, to discuss our respective views and to determine the best way forward for the Irish Red Cross. Action, determined and decisive action, is required to address our deep rooted problems, many of which have existed since the late 80s and 90s. Silencing and removing those who seek reform and who demand the highest standards of the Irish Red Cross will not help the organisation. Rather it will continue to plunge us into the abyss.

    The people we seek to serve at home and abroad, our members and staff and those that fund and support us must be afforded the highest standards of probity, integrity, competence, dedication, ability, transparency, accountability and professionalism.

    Staying silent is grossly irresponsbile and a serious dereliction of duty in my view. There is a serious public interest at stake here.


    I do not intend to engage in a lengthy debate with you Gerard on the blog on the specific comments you have made, many of which I would fundamentally disagree with.

    I have always, however, been available to meet any member or volunteer or Central Council member or Executive Committee member during the course of my employment over the past five years. I remain available and am happy to meet with members, groups of members, branches or areas should they so wish. I would be very willing to travel to areas or branches if areas or branches felt this would be of benefit.

    Additionally I would be happy to attend the upcoming Central Council meeting this November to outline in person my concerns before the elected and appointed members of our supreme governing body. In fact I would greatly welcome the opportunity to do so.

    Should you wish to meet my in person Gerard to discuss all the issues at hand please feel free to contact me on noelwardick@yahoo.com and we can arrange a mutually convenient time and date.

    I will conclude Gerard by offering some collegial advice. You need to be very careful from here on in in your dealings. You have opened up a direct line of communciation with me, which I much appreciate. Despite the fact that you are obviously critical of the Blog and me your intiative will unlikely be welcomed by the Irish Red Cross leadership and will most likely be strangled at birth. Should this not transpire I will stand corrected but you will probably soon discover what its like to get on the wrong side of those who control the Irish Red Cross.

    Regards,

    Noel Wardick

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  8. Anonymous12:40 AM

    Edited comment:

    "one person making allegations does not constitute a need for a costly external investigation": quote from Gerard Mc Hale! You have been misled on this account Gerard. There has been many people over the last twenty years. I know of four at least not including ex staff. Read the bog fully! Mr Mc Hale it is most likely that you have not read all the comments quoted in this forum and on Boards.ie. If you had you would have read that the Irish Red Cross is not a democratic organisation, if it was why was I and other members served with intention to sue for opening our mouths re irregularities in the retention of monies going back over two decades. I have documentation to prove all that I say! Why was Jim Walsh dismissed? Thankfully he stood up to the inner circle and succeeded in taking an action in the High Court against the Red Cross. Why have several members of staff been paid large settlements by the Irish Red Cross? Where did the money from 50 Merrion Road go when Irish Red Cross sold the building? Why did the Head of Youth, Junaita Majury leave..... there are none so blind as those who refuse to see!

    I was an Area Secretary and went through the process you suggest, I talked and reported to everyone appropriately. I was on the National Committee who accused the Executive members of wrong doing. If you want I can supply the letters which appointed Mr Lawlor and Ms Callen to investigate the claims of financial irregularities and minute rigging, so they were investigating themselves!!!.... so don't tell me about democracy, this is one member who did it all right and what did the Society do....attack me and try to shut me up! Sound familair Mr. Mc Hale? The Executive did then what they are doing now and that is employ expensive consultants to cover their ass.

    So if it was so democratic why is that I as a life member of 36 years have not a clue who you are nor have any way of finding out who you are. I can only take your word that your on the Council. Why is that I asked for a list of council members from the Acting Secretary General so that I could write to you and got no response. We did speak verbally but was told that he was not going to respond to any letters. I have accounts for the Irish Red Cross which show monies retained for years that should have been spent on the victims of Appeals. However the Irish Red Cross is quick at running to solicitors, they have done so for at least 30 years. Would you like to see the newspaper articles which questioned our roles and the money for Somalia? Where did the beef go, ask this question? Why was Louis White, Finance Controller, sacked ? When you have those answers I have a few more questions for you. Why is it when I wrote to every single Central Council member years ago that not a single one replied? Instead an Executive member was able to have a solicitor send me a wee love letter! I was asked to appear before certain Executive members in 19xx to discuss my allegations after which Mr Lawlor reported to the Executive that I withdrew all allegations and apologised -- what a joke! The transcript of that meeting which I kept suggests otherwise. Unfortunately this is not your fault because you like many are kept in the dark and will probably never get onto the Executive. Why not ask them for some candles to add some light on the real Irish Red Cross?

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  9. Anonymous12:40 AM

    Noel was right and he is not alone in accusing the Society of wrong doing. He is the latest one that took a stance as did I. Do you honestly think he threw his job away so lightly? The rest of staff that have taken a stance ended up in the labour court or just left from despair. The Council members don’t have a clue what is going on and you will not be told so don’t beat yourself up about it as thats just the way it is. The Society is controlled by the inner sanctum. As for auditors and accounts I was always of the opinion accounts were based on the information supplied, correct or not! Maybe you should buy Senator Ross’s book “Wasters”. I believe FAS had its accounts signed off by auditors also. So did Anglo Irish Bank! Need anymore be said?

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  10. Anonymous4:58 AM

    “...one person making allegations does not constitute a need for a costly external investigation”. Ok, so why was the intention to conduct the costly external investigation announced? When it was announced did Irish Red Cross really intend to implement it? What happened then?

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  11. Anonymous8:19 AM

    Dear Mr. McHale,

    You probably deserve some credit for putting your name to your comment so fair b*lls on that score. Outside of that your naivety is something to behold. You and the others on your council are morally and legally responsbile for what happens in the Irish Red Cross. The Executive Committee reports to you so when you all stay quiet and do nothing your inaction means you approve of what the Executive does so each of you must be accountable for what happens, good and bad. There is no hiding behind 'no-one told me anything'or 'I didnt know'.

    Everything that Wardick has said has been said for twenty years with the same response from the two or three people who think they own the Irish Red Cross. Threaten to sue the person who questions them, fire the person who questions them, destroy the department of the person who questions them, suspend the person who questions them but whatever it takes silence the person who questions them. How much evidence do you need? Its right there in front of you. Do you think politicans from Labour, Fine Gael and the Greens, the media, Transparency International, editorials, boards.ie, would spend so much time on the Irish Red Cross if none of this was true?? As Wardick advised you if you are not quiet you will be facing the same fate as he did. Then you might believe.

    Mr Hale, you compare Irish Red Cross to Concern, Trocaire and Goal!!!!! Is this some sick joke on your part? Are those three great organisations ripped apart week after week in the media, on Prime Time and in the Dail? Is Transparency International making statements about them? NO is the answer. The people in charge of those 3 organisations are known and respected all across Ireland and the world. Do you think the Chief Executive of Goal, Concern or Trocaire would refuse to go on Prime Time saying they are away on holidays and then get caught by Prime Time sitting in their office in Dublin? Do you think that would ever happen??? Do you think the spokespersons of those organisations would disgrace themselves on Prime Time? No they would not! God what naivety you have. You must be a very young person Gerard because any person over 25 in Ireland who knows Irish Red Cross and can read a newspaper would never look at Irish Red Cross with your rose tinted glasses.

    By the way the reason there is questions in the Dail is because the TDs are doing the job they are supposed to and represent their constituents who seem to be going to them in bigger and bigger numbers complaining about Irish Red Cross. Are you saying now that the Irish Red Cross is above Dail Eireann?? If so you are getting well trained by the inner sanctum in arrogance.

    The poster above made a good point about why announce the independent investigation in the first place and then cancel it? Also if the salary level for the Acting Secretary General is ok, at €160,000, if media reports are right, then why is it that the website handling the recruitment for the new Irish Red Cross secretary general says the salary for the new person will be €95,000?!!! This is €65,000 less than the salary now or a 40% reduction!!!!!! So if 160k is ok and needed to attract the 'right people' then why reduce by €65,000 or 40%?????

    Another poster points out that many corrupt companies have had their accounts signed off by auditors and the names given are FAS and Anglo Irish Bank. Here is a few more, AIB, Irish Nationwide, Bank of Ireland, Enron, Lehman Brothers. Everyone in the world knows that auditors signing off on accounts has no relevance regarding corrution or financial irregularities.

    Are you not worried about all the properties Irish Red Cross owns and no-body knows where they are and what they are being used for, who is collecting and using the rent, who is living in them? Even the auditors have said Irish Red Cross is breaking the rules!

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  12. Anonymous1:20 PM

    The Council Members have known about the current irregularities for almost a year and what action has this group taken to insure that the case as presented is either false or true?

    I would ask the Council members to undertake one task as mentioned in one of the board comments. Take a look at the Societies accounts and look at the general account and tell me if the general account rises significantly when the society has an Appeal? If so, is this rise small or large? Now one can only postulate that that there are two scenarios.

    1.The person giving the donation thought they were giving it to an appeal, but because they did not stipulate at the time where the money was to go, the money was put into the general account and is now being used to sue Google.

    2.The donors flocked at these times just to give money to support the Irish Red Cross

    The answer is in the accounts ! Now there is where the difficulty arises the accounts are not available to the members to scrutinise!

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  13. Anonymous12:57 AM

    I have written many times about the members of the Central Counicl of the Irish Red Cross who by all accounts are unable to make change within the Society, if they had the ability they could have made change 10 years ago.

    However, they are not totally to blame I have heard so manty times from Areas and Branches that their Council representative does not report back or the Reresentative has nothing to report as the information they are getting is only what the Executive feed them.

    So they must as individulas take this moment to look at themeselves and reflect on where they are going and accept that as individuals they will either go with the flow or stand and be counted.

    Gerard Mc Hale has spoken and that is good as whilst I think his opinon is askew from reality it is still at least an opion, which I for one will support his righ to speak. But hopefully we can allow him to change not by intervention but by insuring that he has the truth so that an informed opinon can be formed.

    The Ececutive Committee are the fox in this coop and each of them needs to be identified and held responsible for their actions against the Society and if they are proven through evidence to be negligent they need to have a fair hearing and if necessary expelled from the Red Cross.

    Will this happen? well, lets just say that this forum is growing and the many tens of thousand who read this blog on a daily basis are expecting someone to fall on their sword.

    Noel Wardicks case is about to become a trial on how right it is to do the right thing, how right it is if you are being abused in anyway to come forward in the true knowledge that you will be believed not vilified. If you see wrong it is right to speak, not as the IRish Red Cross would like "SILENCE".

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