Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Transparency International calls for independent investigation into Irish Red Cross

On the 9th December 2011 Transparency International (Ireland), the highly reputable global organisation that fights corruption and abuse of power, wrote an open letter to the Minister for Justice, Defence and Equality, Mr. Alan Shatter, calling on the Irish Red Cross to commission an independent investigation into reports of weak financial management and governance at the Society.

Previously Transparency International wrote to the Irish Red Cross but their request for an independent investigation fell on deaf ears. It is of course a damning indictment on the Irish Red Cross that an organisation as credible and highly respected as Transparency International deems it appropriate to call for an independent investigation into the Society’s affairs.

It remains to be seen if Minister Shatter responds in any meaningful way to the call by Transparency International. Certain individuals (past and present) at the Irish Red Cross have much to hide and much to fear from an independent investigation. At a minimum it is likely its board members would come in for severe criticism. It is also a possibility that any independent investigation would result in the Garda Fraud Bureau of Investigation being asked to assist although any such call would be a matter for the independent investigation.

The question is whether the Minister has the stomach for an investigation as it would undoubtedly involve scrutiny of his own Department. It can be assumed with near certainty, given their record of indifference and inaction and therefore complicity, that senior civil servants in the Department of Defence would not be keen to see any independent investigation take place.

The full transcript of the Transparency International letter is transcribed below and can also be seen on the Transparency International Ireland website on the link:

http://www.transparency.ie/news_events/ti-ireland-open-letter-minister-alan-shatter-irish-red-cross

Mr Alan Shatter T.D.
Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence
Department of Justice and Equality
94 St Stephen’s Green
Dublin 2

9 December 2011

Dear Minister Shatter,

I write on the occasion of UN Anti-Corruption Day to firstly congratulate the Irish Government on the ratification of the UN Convention against Corruption this year. We are convinced that this important legal instrument will help Ireland meet its commitments to reaching and maintaining international standards of good governance and are happy to offer whatever help your department should require in reviewing its implementation.

As you are aware, Article 33 of the Convention recognises the important role of good faith reporting in protecting the public interest.

I should therefore also use this opportunity to draw your attention to the continued concerns of Transparency International Ireland (TI Ireland) over the failure of the Irish Red Cross Society (IRC) to commission an independent investigation into reports of weak financial management and governance at the Society made by Mr Noel Wardick, former Head of the IRC’s International Department.

Mr Wardick was dismissed on the grounds of gross misconduct on 10 November 2010 for having publicly commented on the governance of the IRC. He is still unemployed and unable to gain employment pending his appeal for unfair dismissal to the Employment Appeals Tribunal.

On 9 December 2010, TI Ireland wrote to the Central Council of the IRC encouraging them to commission an independent investigation into Mr Wardick’s claims. In spite of the Comptroller and Auditor General’s critical report into poor financial management of state funding at the IRC, no independent investigation has taken place into Mr Wardick’s public statements on the management of public donations and governance at the charity.

We believe that the IRC’s refusal to commission an independent investigation into his claims will serve as a great disincentive to anyone wishing to report financial irregularities or the risk of wrongdoing in the charity sector. We would therefore ask you to press upon the IRC the importance of an independent investigation into Mr Wardick’s reports. Such a measure would not only help seek a fair resolution to all the parties in this case, but also serve the public interest.

Yours sincerely,

John Devitt
Chief Executive

On a Separate Matter:

1. It appears the issue of the very poor 2011 Floods Appeal was not properly discussed at the recent Central Council meeting on 10th December 2011. For those not familiar with the situation an unwise decision was taken after the highly localised but severe flooding that took place primarily in Dublin in November to launch a nationwide appeal. The appeal involved radio and newspaper advertisements and as such significant costs would likely have been incurred. The appeal raised a gross amount of circa €30,000, extremely small for a national appeal. When the costs of the appeal advertisements are deducted the net amount would have been very much less. To put €30,000 in context in 2009 when vast areas of the country were flooded over €1 million was raised. It is highly unusual for the Irish Red Cross to launch a costly national appeal for a localised emergency that received no more than a day or two of national media coverage. Those experienced in such matters, had they been available, would have advised against a national appeal as the response permitted from raising smalls sums of money leaves many affected families disappointed and frustrated. Unfortunately for the Society many saw the appeal for what it was, namely a public relations exercise that had little real substance to it. Hopefully some valuable lessons have been learned by senior Irish Red Cross management who made the questionable call to launch a national appeal.

2. The decision, if confirmed, to suspend the purchases of all ambulances in 2012 and to ask branches to cover costs directly related to their branches that were previously covered by head office is welcome and long overdue. In recent years the Irish Red Cross head office has incurred some sizeable and costly annual operating deficits and these have severely impacted the Society’s ability to grow and develop. Much of this was due to head office being forced to incur massive costs covering branch expenses and outlays related to purchasing new ambulances. Millions of Euros reside in bank accounts across the country which belongs to local branches yet head office is obliged to pay many branch direct costs, a clearly unsustainable policy and one that has cost the organisation many hundreds of thousands of Euros in recent years. It could easily be argued that the pressure to close the worsening head office operating deficits led to the decision in 2010 to allocate over €600,000 donated by the public and intended for Haiti into the domestic fund. By doing so the 2010 annual accounts showed a near breakeven point for the Society. The reality, however, was that a huge deficit had been incurred. Earthquake victims in Haiti paid the price on this occasion.

3. In relation to ambulances no new purchases should take place until such time as a full scale assessment and performance audit is carried out on the 140 or so vehicles that operate under the name of the Irish Red Cross. Such a performance audit with recommendations should be carried out by independent fleet management specialists and not by internal Red Cross staff, volunteers or board members. A comprehensive fleet management and accountability system needs to be implemented. All future ambulance purchases post the suspension should only be made after a comprehensive cost/benefit analysis and should be based on a real need and an ability to efficiently and effectively address that need. Ambulances as status symbols and a means to influence, reward and control must have no future in the Irish Red Cross.

4. It is hoped that the suspension of ambulance purchases will ensure the Irish Red Cross no longer drains valuable resources and energy away from other critically important humanitarian programs carried out domestically by the Irish Red Cross such as the ever growing and expanding Youth Program, the highly impressive Restoring Family Links Program, the HIV/AIDS Program, the Community Services Program including therapeutic hand care etc and the highly innovative and pioneering Prisons Health Care Program. It is essential these programs are properly resourced and invested in. While they are no more important than first aid and ambulances equally they are no less important.

17 comments:

  1. Anonymous4:22 AM

    Once any organisation comes under the spotlight it is inevitable that differing points of view will emerge and in particular people become very sensitive about points which may directly refer to the work they do.
    The people calling for reform of the Irish Red Cross are not criticising the voluntary service of those in the Irish Red Cross or the good work done on the ground every day.
    For all those Volunteers reading this blog, and the various comments, who may feel aggrieved or who view this call for reform as some form of attack on the good work they do, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE look at the bigger picture. There have been numerous comparisons between the Irish State and the Irish Red Cross. The comparison does not need explaining.
    There is no point in expressing anger over an apparent slight on volunteers. Those fighting for reform at the Irish Red Cross are fighting because of fundamental belief in the Red Cross Movement including voluntary service. A couple of commenters above expressed the same sentiment but I must reiterate : PLEASE PLEASE ASK THE TOUGH QUESTIONS AT BRANCH LEVEL. ASK WHY ARE THOSE IN POWER ACTIVELY DESTROYING THE IRISH RED CROSS. WHY ARE ALL VOLUNTEERS BEING TARNISHED WITH THE SAME BRUSH OF IMEPTITUDE INCOMPETENCE AND MORAL NEGLIGENCE DEMONSTRATED BY THOSE ON THE BOARD OF THE IRISH RED CROSS.
    Just like the majority of the Irish nation went about their lives working hard through the Celtic Tiger without any great excess and have been rewarded with crushing austerity to pay out LOSING gambles to faceless bondholders, it is the Irish Red Cross Members, Volunteers, and Staff who work tirelessly for the beliefs of the Red Cross Movement but who are being punished by sheer ineptitude at the top. DO NOT SIT BACK AND ACCEPT IT. DEMAND ANSWERS. DEMAND ACCOUNTABILITY. PLEASE. SADLY IT WILL ONLY HAPPEN IF THE MEMBERS DEMAND IT.

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  2. Anonymous5:20 AM

    The Irish Red Cross will appear before the Dail's Public Accounts Committee on 19th January 2012. The Public Accounts Committee announced this yesterday.

    Being investigated by the Dail's Public Accounts Committee will be another dark and shameful day in the Society's history.

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  3. Anonymous2:18 PM

    I have never seen such a considered, well informed and sensitive campaign for re-organisation of an organisation as this one.
    Anyone reading it will see the depth of evidence that builds the case for urgent reform.
    Clearly those who contribute and support this campaign will not give up until Irish Red Cross is set on reform.
    The Irish Red Cross have not answered the issues raised and irregularities exposed time and time again except with the transparent spin which is so disappointing for a member of such an International Movement.
    The Public Accounts Committee are to be congratulated for their demand for answers and accountability which is long overdue.

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  4. Anonymous11:24 PM

    Its almost hard to beleive that another year has passed. The Red Cross in that year have address almost none of the issues that this blog set out to expose.

    The IRC way of dealing with all issues is really quite simple and to date has been very effective. 1. Anyone that complains isolate them as a trouble maker.
    2. If you cannot isolate them send them a letter "your comments are noted".
    3 If they persist ignore them.
    4. If they continue to be a pain totally ignore them or accuse them of living in the past and being disruptive.
    5 If all the above fails then threaten legal action.
    6. Last buy not least "Do nothing at all".

    I am sure there are other actions , but this has been the plan to date. Oh yes, tell the staff haow big a threat you are to their jobs that usually gets eats prickling.

    What a wonderful humanitarian Society the IRC is, they are a true inspiration to humanity. Sorry you can only write so much whilst laughing !

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  5. Anonymous5:54 AM

    Well the Irish Red Cross appearance at the Dail Public Accounts Committee on 19th January 2012 will see their spin and propaganda go into overdrive.

    I cant wait to see and hear their half hearted insincere apologies and statements that everything is being reformed and changed...that is of course everything except the people who are responsible for the disgrace in the first place who still are the real ones in charge...these still serve on the board and god only knows what ridiculous excuse Irish Red Cross and the apologists for the board will have to explain that away and what farcical response they will give when asked why they breach good governance by allowing the national vice chairman and treasurer stay on the Irish Red Cross board despite their excessive service and invovlement in holding and maintaining and failing to investigate secret bank accounts.

    Hopefully the Public Accounts Committee members will see true the spin and propaganda. No doubt they will as so far Irish Red Cross have been so bad at it nobody believes a word they say anymore

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  6. Anonymous6:00 AM

    Well done to blog for questioning the Irish Red Cross 'national' floods appeal for a flood that happened mostly in Dublin that failed miserably to raise any substantial amount of money. As a result the Irish Red Cross was only able to partially help 30 families, an embarrassing and inadequate response from an organisation that thinks it plays in the premiership division when in fact it plays non league football.

    Inexperienced senior managers made the decision to launch the national appeal and it was done primarily for publicity and public relations reasons. Most board members do not have the requisite experience either when it comes to critically and professionally assessing such crises and making informed decisions.

    Taking advantage of people's hardship to promote the Irish Red Cross on radio and in the press was another sickening low by the Irish Red Cross.

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  7. Anonymous6:14 AM

    The Christmas Day edition of the Sunday Independent (out in shops today 24th Dec) on page 11 has another story about the Irish Red Cross and its misgovernance and financial irregularities. To be honest its the sort of Christmas present the Society's leaders deserve.

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  8. Anonymous6:37 AM

    More terrible publicty for the Irish Red Cross...and on Christmas Day when the whole country will sit down to read their newspapers they will get to read about the ongoing mess at the Irish Red Cross in the Sunday Independent.

    When will Irish Red Cross learn that until they remove their Vice Chairman and Treasuer no amount of spin will make this all go away. Well done to the Sunday Independent for constantly shining a light on the financial irregularities at the Irish Red Cross.

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  9. Anonymous10:43 AM

    I just read the Sunday Independent article (25th Dec edition) on the Irish Red Cross. Seems the Sunday Indo has got a copy of the Central Council report as it quotes directly from it.

    So the Irish Red Cross is blaming negative elements in the media, politics, volunteers and ex staff who are causing all the problems. Has there ever been a more delusional and blinkered bunch of people as those that run the Irish Red Cross??? They seem to think that financial irregularities, mis use of public funds, secret bank accounts, misgovernance and incompetence are not the problems but rather its hostile policiticans and elements in the media. Is it possible to get any more pathetic? If it wasnt so serious you'd nearly feel sorry for those responsible for the ineptitude.

    All we can do is hope that in 2012 the likes of the Sunday Independent and politicians in the Dail continue to shed light on the scandals of the Irish Red Cross. This is the only way the Irish Red Cross will reform...when it is forced to do so under the glare of the media, the public and politicians. Left to their own devices they will fail to do so.

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  10. Anonymous3:33 AM

    The link to the Sunday Independent's Christmas Day present to the Irish Red Cross is:

    http://www.independent.ie/national-news/red-cross-needs-year-to-shake-off-bad-press-2973022.html

    So it is true then...when you are a bad boy Santa doesnt bring nice presents :-)

    The Sunday Indo article highlights just how bad the financial inadequacies at the Irish Red Cross are

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  11. Anonymous3:43 AM

    The Chairman of the Irish Red Cross in today's Sunday Indo (25th Dec), sets the blame firmly on a few individuals, who are on a campaign (so he says) against the Red Cross, this is a guy who has worked for too long in the public sector. Lay the blame on wherever you can, but don't accept any responsibility. All they need is another year. Listen Mr Chairman the Irish Red Cross in Ireland has had 73 years to get it right, what makes you think that you can change 73 years of mess in 12 months. What have you been doing for the last 12 months other than sitting on your hands and cancelling independent investigations. There is no one waging a campaign against the Irish Red Cross, what would anyone want to do that for, its an incompetent and complicit board who are the ones that are responsible. The campaign is against deceit, misuse of monies etc. Sorry I forgot senior civil servants are never held responsible for anything, no matter how big the mess. Old habits die hard. The people you suggest that are on a campaign are the only ones that have the integrity and courage to save the Irish Red Cross from this incompetence Mr. Chairman. If it was not for them, Mr Lawlor would still have 162k in a bank account in Tipperary. Noel Wardick, Gerard Moyne, Mary Cullivan and others should be commended for exposing the scandals of financial irregularities and misuse of public money and the appalling response from an incompetant board. Bravo them. Role on the 19th of January and the Dail Public Accounts Committee (PAC) or did you forget to mention that to the press. Even funnier that you failed to make any reference to this in your 6 month report to your Board. In a well functioning organisation such an ommission of information to fellow board members (being called before the national parliament to account for the unacceptable actions of the Society) would be a serious disciplinary offence. Not in the Irish Red Cross though.

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  12. Anonymous3:27 AM

    Thanks for the link to the Sunday Independent article on 25th December and the date (19th Jan) for the Dail Public Accounts Committee Hearing. Will watch that on line.

    Looks like Irish Red Cross in for a torrid start to 2012 following hot on the heals of of a torrid finish to 2011.

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  13. Anonymous3:54 AM

    Will Donal Forde, Secretary General of the Irish Red Cross be at the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Hearing on 19th Jan or will the IRC leave him out of the picture as he might be called to give evidence at the PAC with regard to his dealings with his former employers AIB where he was the Managing Director of AIB Republic of Ireland. Appearing before the PAC twice over two disgraced organisations is hardly ideal. I am disgusted at the comments from the current chairman, as reported in the Sunday Independent on 25th December. His term finishes in May 2012. Is he going to ask the Minister to reappoint him? What chance given he was appointed by a Fianna Fail government. Based on how these things normally work we can assume the Minister will appoint a Fine Gael loyalist which if he does will see the back of the current Chairman in the not too distant future. The Red Cross Executive are experts at this stage at spin. They throw out statements which are as plausible as the man on the moon. All this new Chairman needs is another year according to statements attributed to him, when he knows he could be gone in four months. I’m not laughing !

    While there is no downside to the current Chairman leaving the big dangerous risk for the Irish Red Cross is that if the new proposed Irish Red Cross constitution is passed before May then current Vice Chairman will be eligible to become Chairman. This would be catastrophic for the Society should it ever materialise

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  14. Anonymous7:10 AM

    Blaming the Irish Red Cross problems on ex-employees and current and ex volunteers and members is a disgrace. The Chairman should hang his head in shame.

    The people who are responsible for the mess at the Irish Red Cross are certain ex board members and a number of the current ones so Mr. Chairman blame and deal with those responsible not those who have exposed the scandals and spoken the truth. Do this and you might redeem your disgraceful comments that you wrote in the Central Council report which the Sunday Independent exposed in its Christmas edition.

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  15. Anonymous6:55 AM

    The Chairman of the Irish Red Cross has unfortunately taken on the approach of that often adopted by those ingrained in bureaucratic systems, one that fosters “a take no responsibility” attitude. In his Central Council report, without naming names mind you, he clearly blames me and others by suggesting that I am on a campaign AGAINST the Irish Red Cross. For the record everything I have done and will continue to do is FOR the Irish Red Cross. I am not on a campaign against the Irish Red Cross but make no mistake I am AGAINST negligence, incompetence, misuse of resources and public funds, financial irregularities, misgovernance, using overseas funds to finance domestic expenses such as consultants and legal fees, bullying, intimidation and harassment, all of which have existed at the Irish Red Cross for decades. Yes, I am AGAINST these Mr.O' Callaghan and I suggest you also should be against these and that you would be better served addressing these issues rather than trying to blame and target those other individuals such as myself and Noel Wardick who are trying to address and end these issues.
    Sir, perhaps you might for the benefit of fairness answer one simple question, why is it that to date you have declined to answer my correspondence to you? Is this the campaign to which you refer? Why is it that you cancelled the independent investigation into the serious and damaging breach of the financial rules of the Irish Red Cross by the Vice Chairman? If you continue with this charade “of blame and shoot the messengers” then it is my view your position is untenable. You must address the wrongs and inactions committed by the Vice Chairman and the Treasurer and not attack those who have spoken the truth and proven to have spoken the truth. You unwisely and naively blamed the media in your Central Council report and they rewarded you by hitting back at you with a large article in the Christmas Day edition of the Sunday Independent, a paper with a readership of over a quarter of a million people.
    The scandals of the Irish Red Cross are not the media's fault, not Gerard Moyne's fault, not Noel Wardick's fault, not politicians in the Dail's fault who never stop questioning you, not Transparency International's fault. All these people and organisations have done is expose the Irish Red Cross for what it really is, an under performing organisation that has betrayed the Irish public and has been brought to near ruin by incompetence, negligence and a power hungry ruling cabal. Please take your head out of the sand and deal with those responsible. Attacking those who tell the truth brings further disgrace on the Society. It only serves to mobilise more determinedly those of us who are committed to ensuring those responsible are held to account and removed from the Society.
    I have always been committed to the Principles of the Red Cross and I am unwilling to hide behind rhetoric, spin and nonsensical propaganda, examples of which abound in the recent Central Council report. I am willing to stand up for what I truly believe in. Because I am FOR the Irish Red Cross I will never allow it be destroyed by individuals who without any shadow of doubt have never had its best interests at heart but who rather serve and feed their own insatiable egos.

    Continued:

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  16. Anonymous6:56 AM

    Why is it that the current Secretary General is unable to find certain Executive Committee minutes of meetings? Has this documentation been destroyed? For one reason and one reason only in my view, to protect the indefensible. Noel Wardick lost his job, over the truth, something he should be rightly proud of because he stood up for what is right. By blaming him, me and others you lose all credibility!
    The Irish Red Cross however will survive despite the incompetence of the Vice Chairman, the Treasurer and others and the complicity of those who remain silent. The Irish Red Cross is a greater organisation than those who currently control it in Ireland. We can only hope they will fade into obscurity where they belong and where they will be very quickly forgotten. Thankfully some have already gone and are forgotten despite their damaging legacy but the most powerful remain and remain in control. I don't dislike all these individuals, I wish only justice, and justice will be done. The history which is currently being written in this blog will survice long after you and I are gone and will be a permanent record of the truth about what really happened at the Irish Red Cross. And for that we should be grateful.

    Gerard Moyne
    Life Member Irish Red Cross

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  17. Anonymous4:08 AM

    In the Irish Independent of 29th December there was a detailed article on the drop in fundraising being experienced by Irish Charities. A number of charities were interviewed and the vast majority admitted big reductions during 2011. All told the truth and all were secure enough to say funding had declined and that 2011 was a very difficult year.

    Step up Irish Red Cross spokesperson, Rebecca Thorne, who was also interviewed and miracuously it seems Irish Red Cross funding did not decline in 2011 and stayed the same as 2010. This statement from the department of propaganda at the Irish Red Cross is of course false and is totally contradictory to the recently issued Chairman's report to the Irish Red Cross Central Council. The Chairman's report issued in December 2011 stated the following:

    "All our revenue lines are reducing and we must anticipate that this trend will continue for the next number of years. This has presented us with major difficulties in the current year but more importantly has required us to radically re-appraise our financial position and our financial planning for the years ahead....Our fundraising income has reduced considerably. As at the 31st October 2011, our gross income is €800k-compared to €1.48m at the same time last year. We are projecting total income for the year of €1.35m. The revenue streams that have been particularly impacted this year are committed giving, legacies and tax rebates for donations....Our income is reducing significantly and these trends look likely to continue for the short to medium term"

    Now I wonder how the Irish Red Cross spokesperson can reconcile the above statement issued by the Chairman earlier this month with her own statement to the Irish Independent that appeared on the 29th December.

    It couldnt be any clearer that when it comes to telling the truth to the public and to the media the Irish Red Cross leopard has most definitely NOT changed its spots.

    It can only be hoped that whoever authorised the misleading statement to the media is severely reprimanded.

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