Saturday, January 1, 2011

"Serious administrative failures" and "serious deficiencies in accounting procedures" at Irish Red Cross but still no-one is held accountable

The lack of accountability within the Irish Red Cross must be one of its most defining characteristics.

An internal report by the Irish Red Cross on the handling of the Tipperary Tsunami bank account, despite many serious shortcomings, is nevertheless a damning indictment on the organisation and those responsible for what happened. The internal report not only exposes the violation of financial procedures around the Tipperary Tsunami bank account it highlights the fact that officers of the Tipperary Branch, of whom the current organisational Vice Chairman is one, flagrantly ignored Irish Red Cross policy concerning all branch bank accounts and finances over at least a three year period. Why did they behave in this fashion? Why was it allowed happen year after year? And why, after it has been officially exposed in an internal report, is no-one being held accountable?

The internal report makes it very clear that such behaviour and practise is “unacceptable”. The report also states that the Tipperary branch should have been issued a final written warning and if it still continued with its violation of policy it should have been closed down. Given that the Tipperary Branch Officers regularly and year on year violated Irish Red Cross financial and accounting policy the question must be asked why the branch was not closed and all officers stood down. Had this happened and had Irish Red Cross regulations been implemented the current organisational Vice Chairman, who has been in his post for twenty years, would have been automatically forced to resign his post. The current Vice Chairman is elected to the post via the Tipperary Branch to the Area Committee to Central Council to the Executive Committee. If the Tipperary Branch was closed down, as it should have been due to its repeated failure to adhere to organisational finance procedures, then the Vice Chairman’s election to the Area Committee, Central Council and Executive Committee would automatically be null and void. Therefore his election as Vice Chairman would automatically be null and void and he would have been forced to step down.

The issuing of a final written warning to the Tipperary Branch and its eventual closure should have taken place somewhere between 2005 and 2008. This is clearly noted in the internal Irish Red Cross report. Why did this not happen? Why did members of the Executive Committee not close the Tipperary Branch or at the very least insist that those officers responsible for the unacceptable actions resign immediately? Who were they afraid of? Why did they fail in their duties? Who was protecting whom? And what was really happening in the Tipperary Branch?

Had the Executive Committee and its master, the Central Council, acted decisively in 2005/06/07 the Irish Red Cross would most certainly have a different Vice Chairman today. In addition an organisational reform and transformation agenda would have been well and truly underway. A very different Irish Red Cross would now exist. Unfortunately the reality is a damaged and under performing organisation. No-one has been held accountable for clear violations of policy and an outrageous misuse/non use of publicly donated money over nearly a four year period.

Much of the focus of this Blog during 2011 will be on accountability. It has now been established beyond doubt that there are serious failings within the Irish Red Cross. The Minister for Defence, Tony Killeen, has admitted this in the Dail. The Irish Red Cross Chairman, David J. O’ Callaghan, has admitted this on public record. Those responsible for these failings MUST be held accountable. Until they are the Irish Red Cross will be unable to move forward.

Much of what this Blog has written about during 2010 has been fully vindicated by Irish Red Cross’s own internal investigation. Sadly much more remains to be investigated and revealed. Even during the recent Christmas period Irish Red Cross could not escape being mentioned on TV3’s program, Ireland’s Biggest Scandals. This program analysed and commented on a number of big Irish scandals over the years. In discussing Charles Haughey, a former Irish Prime Minister implicated in a number of corrupt activities, the well known and respected journalist Kevin Myers stated that ‘Charles Haughey helped create the Provisional IRA. He did this by giving them £100,000 which was channelled through the Irish Red Cross’. This shocking revelation is covered at more length in the Arms Trial transcripts as well as in Jack Lynch’s (former Irish Prime Minister) official biography. All this, however, supposedly happened over thirty years ago. The focus of this blog is not on accusations of funding the IRA but on much more recent issues and the need for those to be investigated. The accusation of funding the IRA via the Irish Red Cross, while deeply disturbing, was dealt with by the Irish Government, the Courts and the Irish police at the time.

When it comes to genuine accountability, something which requires real courage and integrity, the Irish Red Cross could do well to take a leaf out of the book of the Ancient Romans. They had a tradition that took accountability to new heights. Whenever one of their engineers constructed an arch, as the capstone was hoisted into place, the engineer assumed accountability for his work in the most profound way possible: he stood under the arch.

Oh that the Irish Red Cross leadership could demonstrate such bravery and mettle.

During 2011 the Irish Red Cross Central Council, the organisation’s supreme governing authority, will hold a minimum of three meetings, the first in February and thereafter in May and November. They may of course decide to hold more should they deem it necessary. The February meeting will hopefully provide the Central Council an opportunity to meet the newly appointed permanent Secretary General. This Blog would encourage the Central Council to also hold a full scale General Assembly in 2011. There is no legitimate reason for a General Assembly not to have taken place since 2005, when one is supposed to take place every two years. Again this is a failure of accountability and an insult to organisational democracy.

2011 will bring many changes in Ireland and it is hoped that such change will permeate all the way down to the Irish Red Cross. Central Council members must re-assert their authority and control of the organisation. Central Council must accept its responsibility and not continue to abdicate its duties. As someone very wisely said “No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible”. But EVERY snowflake IS responsible.

There are many issues within the Irish Red Cross that need addressing and reform but the following three matters must be a priority for early 2011:

1. Those officers implicated in the Tipperary Tsunami Bank account scandal and responsible for the clear violation, over a number of years, of financial and accounting policy must be held fully accountable for their actions. In addition a number of serious shortcomings in the internal report must be addressed, corrected and further investigated.

2. The long running practice by the Irish Red Cross of using Overseas Disaster Appeal money to fund domestic activities and expenses must cease immediately and a full independent investigation launched so that those responsible are fully held to account and removed from the Society. All monies raised for Overseas Disasters but channelled to domestic expenses must be returned to the International Department. As the sums involved are vast this will need to be carefully managed so as not to jeopardise the financial stability of the organisation.

3. The Irish Red Cross reportedly has a property portfolio of €7 million. The Irish Red Cross external auditors have stated in the accounts of the Irish Red Cross that the Society is “at variance with Standard Accounting Practice for Charities” in not declaring these properties as income in its accounts and recording them as assets on its balance sheet. The auditors have stated this in their formal report in 2008 and again in 2009. Mystery and secrecy surrounds the Irish Red Cross property portfolio. A full independent investigation into this matter needs to commence immediately, the deeds of ownership of all properties declared, a full list of the properties produced and their current uses and income outlined in full to each and every Central Council member. Continued breaches of Standard Accounting Practice must cease forthwith.

The next twelve months can either be a time of change and rebirth for the Irish Red Cross or it can be a time of stagnation and decline. With a new Chairman in place and a soon to be new Secretary General there is no better time for fundamental reform to take place and previous wrongs to be reversed. For this to happen though those responsible for the sins of the past must be held accountable and be seen to be held accountable while those responsible for ensuring they are held accountable must do so.

It’s not only what we do, but also what we do not do, for which we are accountable-Moliere

9 comments:

  1. Anonymous4:20 AM

    Its 2011 and the Irish Red Cross has not produced its 2009 Annual Report. What a joke!! And certain people are getting paid €160,000 a year and they cant even manage to get the organisation's Annual Report sorted. Does this alone not worry the Minister for Defence, Tony Killeen. Does he have any idea how Irish Red Cross spent the one million euro grant they get from the Government, not alone in 2010 but 2009 too. How can he when the 2009 Annual Report isnt completed yet. When will we see the 2010 report? In 2012 or 2013 or will we ever see one?

    I used to be a donor to the Irish Red Cross until the media and this blog enlightened me and until there is real change at the top I will not give another penny of my hard earned money.

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  2. Anonymous4:49 AM

    I have read all the comments posted on the previous article. If what they say is true about diverting €600,000 of publicly donated money for Haiti to cover up the Irish Red Cross domestic deficit those responsible need to be fired and the Board directors who sanction this practice made resign immediately.

    How many millions of Euros of public money donated for overseas disasters to the Irish Red Cross has been used like this? Are Irish Red Cross staff involved in this practise? Which ones? Who knew about this? Or is it the Board? Or both? Who is the Finance Controller in the Irish Red Cross? What are they doing about all these revelations? Staying silent it seems? Involved maybe? Or afraid of being fired if they speak out?

    Thank you Noel Wardick for this Blog and the great work you did in 2010 exposing this bunch for what they really are. Good luck for 2011 and as you say the next step has to be accountability and making those responsible pay.

    So Irish Red Cross spends over €100,000 on legal fees in 2010, €160,000 on its CEO, thousands on perks for two senior managers, tries to sue Google, hires consultants for everything and it pays for such things by diverting money intended for overseas disasters. Jesus Christ is there no end to this?

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  3. Anonymous4:01 AM

    Good question about the Irish Red Cross Financial Controller from the commentor above. Does the Irish Red Cross even have a finance controller? Wouldnt surprise me if they dont given the mess the place is in. If they have what is this person doing about these revelations in the internal report, the property portfolio and the allocation of overseas money to projects and expenses in Ireland? Is this person fighting against these practices or too afraid to speak out? Probably the latter knowing Irish Red Cross. Still if you are in a responsible position and you know something and dont speak out for fear of getting fired this is not an acceptable excuse. As Blogger says in article above we have to be held accountable for what we do and what we do not do. The Irish public have been hood winked out of hundreds of thousands of Euros and maybe millions. This is a huge scandal.

    What's the story with the new Secretary General btw? The post was advertised in September or October. When will the new person start and inject some hope into the Irish Red Cross? When will they guy Acting, the consultant, finish up?And when will that guy responsible for keeping the Tipperary Bank account a secret resign? Only then can things really change.

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  4. Anonymous4:34 AM

    So Minister Tony Killeen has announced he intends to resign in a couple of months. Well his record on Irish Red Cross will read: did nothing, achieved nothing.

    Has a date for the February 2011 Central Council meeting been set yet? Dont let the leaders cancel it like they did last year when they cancelled the February 2010 central council meeting just so they would not have to face irate members. They will try to cancel it again thats one thing for sure so dont let them get away with it this time

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  5. Anonymous6:11 AM

    The internal report into the mishandling of the Tipperary branch tsunami monies and other branch finances has identifed those responsible for breaking Irish Red Cross financial policies over many years. From what I have read one of these people appears to be the Vice Chairman of the Irish Red Cross. Has he been told to resign? Maybe he has so if so thats good. If he hasnt been told to go yet Im sure he will be kept hidden from public view as the damage his presence does to Irish Red Cross's reputation is incalcuable especially if he is allowed stay on. Ireland is no longer in the mood for people not being held to account. Irish Red Cross should be no exception.

    If I read the Blog and comments correctly Irish Red Cross will have a new Secretary General soon? That will be good given the crazy and terrible mismanagement that happened in 2010 after the previous Secretary General resigned at the end of 2009.

    I presume the consultant who was the Acting Secretary General for a while last year and was caught on national television by Prime Time hiding in his office when he said he was away on holidays is long gone? Maybe I am wrong on this but I am presuming the new Chairman is running the Irish Red Cross until the new Secretary General starts. Makes sense if thats the case.

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  6. Anonymous6:36 AM

    When the new Secretary General starts I hope his first job will be to correct the injustice inflicted on Noel Wardick. Even the Irish Red Cross's own internal report shows that what Wardick has said is correct. So he is fired and the people responsible for the wrongs still hold their positions. Not good!

    When Noel Wardick's case comes before the courts Irish Red Cross will be humilated in public and the media will have a field day. Everyone knows IRC has no defence and the damage that will be done by a public court case which will spill the beans on the rotten internal workings of the IRC will last for years.

    So new Secretary General, whoever you are, sort this out with Wardick as otherwise you will be dealing with this mess throughout your tenure in charge and you will be badly damaged by it yourself if you take up where your predecessor left off.

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  7. Anonymous7:13 AM

    Noel and other casualties of the search for accountability and humanitarianism in Irish Red Cross are to be lauded. We are lucky that such people of principle are alive and ready to stand for truth - Thank you.
    Of course the principal concern of this blog rightly is concerned with IRC. It should however be realised that the whole Red Cross / Crescent Movement is contaminated by the lack of communication and action by the departing Government, the IFRC and the IRC governance and management.
    The longer this saga goes on, the deeper will be the wounds and damage to the Red Cross/ Crescent Movement.
    Silence from the Head Office of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescents (IFRC) of which IRC is a member (underwritten by Government), is evidence of the wider problems of the International Movement.
    The time must surely have arrived when the IRC is held to account for its membership obligations of; transparency, accountability and representation as a National Society.
    Reliance on the IRC to responsibly bring its house to order have proved a flawed strategy and its time for international and Government action.

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  8. It is worthy to note that the Executive Committee and those who sat on the kangaroo court that was set up to find Noel Wardick guilty of “Gross misconduct” are I believe with this organisation for far too long. Let’s look at the grounds of dismissal or normal reasons to dismiss

    The normal guidelines for gross misconduct are:
    • fighting
    • theft from the employer or colleagues
    • fraud or falsifying work documents
    • accessing and/or distributing pornographic emails or websites
    • deliberately damaging company property
    • serious bullying or harassment
    • bringing the employer into serious disrepute
    • serious infringement of health and safety rules
    • serious failure to follow reasonable instructions.

    Could one regard taking 600k out of Appeal funds as gross, could it be regarded creating rules to get rid of members gross, could threatening members with court action be regarded as gross. According to the Executive Committee what is gross is complaining that they the “Executive”, are offending the good name of the Red Cross and breaking the rules to suit their own ends. So on the grounds that are above, I would suggest that the members of the Executive Committee are guilty of “Gross Misconduct “ and once again I suggest they resign or eventually have your asses kicked out the door !
    The bods at the top of the Red Cross appear to have a problem dealing with delusions of importance, what Noel Wardick did could not be described as “Gross” in fact what is gross, is the conduct of the Executive Committee. If my comments offend please take it that the offence caused by the Executive is much greater than any words I could come up with. The seriousness of Mr Wardicks allegations appear not to have been addressed against the Executive we have to ask why.

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  9. Anonymous4:20 PM

    I would endorse the comments of the post which referred to the shortcomings of the International Federation of the Red Cross / Crescents: "Silence from the Head Office of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescents (IFRC) of which IRC is a member (underwritten by Government), is evidence of the wider problems of the International Movement".
    Surely Mr Bekele the Secretary General of IFRC should feel some responsibility for protecting the reputation of the Movement as a whole which is so threatened by the IRC. Many times IFRC has intervened with National Red Cross / Crescent Societies of less developed countries to sort out Governance and general integrity issues and just because IRC is from a so called "developed country" there should be no reason why it should be treated differently.
    It is high time that IFRC or ICRC made a statement to explain how IRC is permitted to retain membership when it is so evidently contravening the statutes and standing orders and of the Movement not to mention its total disregard for accountabiliy to donors and to those in suffering and poverty.

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