Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Irish Red Cross forced to apologise over inaccurate evidence to Parliamentary Committee

The Secretary General of the Irish Red Cross, Mr. Donal Forde, has been forced to issue an apology for giving inaccurate evidence to a recent parliamentary Public Accounts Committee hearing (19th January 2012). The hearing was held to investigate financial irregularities, misgovernance and misuse of donor money at the Irish Red Cross.

Following the 19th January hearing the evidence given by Mr. Forde and his two colleagues, Mr. David O’ Callaghan-Chairman and Mr. Ronan Ryan-Fundraising Manager, was challenged in separate written correspondence from the former and highly respected Irish Red Cross Board member, Jennifer Bulbulia and the former Irish Red Cross Head of International Department Noel Wardick.

The Dail (Irish parliament) Public Accounts Committee then forwarded the letters to the Irish Red Cross and requested a formal response to their contents. Faced with this situation and the information contained in the letters Mr. Forde was left with little or no option but to admit the Irish Red Cross had presented inaccurate evidence.

The question remains, however, had Mr. Forde not been challenged by Mr. Wardick and Ms. Bulbulia would he or Mr. O’ Callaghan or Mr. Ryan ever have admitted on record that a significant aspect of the original IRC evidence was inaccurate? Or would their inaccurate evidence have remained as the official response on public record? We will never know of course but readers can come to their own conclusions.

In addition to apologising for serious inaccuracies Mr. Forde was also forced to back track concerning the quality and reliability of his original evidence regarding the undisclosed Tipperary Tsunami Bank account, on which the national Vice Chairman, Anthony (Tony) Lawlor, was a signatory.

At the 19th January hearing Mr. Forde was very definitive in his answers about what happened, who knew what happened, who didn’t know what happened and when people knew what happened. Much of Mr. Forde’s evidence in this regard was factually wrong, inaccurate and incorrect. When subsequently challenged Mr. Forde, on behalf of the Irish Red Cross, has had to row back substantially on his evidence. In his response to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in his letter of 14th February 2012 Mr. Forde was forced to admit:

“However I have to say that I, or my colleagues, were not prepared for some of the very forensic questioning relating to the precise detail of events surrounding the Tipperary Bank account incident through the period from 2005 to 2009”

It is highly unfortunate that during the actual hearing on the 19th January that Mr. Forde nor his two colleagues made such an admission but rather presented information as fact and accurate. They clearly led the Committee members to believe they were speaking with authority on matters that it has now transpired they were not prepared for nor were they knowledgeable about.

Mr. Forde goes on to admit in his letter to PAC:

I am not in a position to offer a definitive account of those events, nor indeed were any my colleagues on the day

The question must now be asked why Mr. Forde, despite his admission that he and his colleagues could not provide a definitive account of the situation, did exactly that during the hearing. They presented information as fact and at no stage informed the PAC hearing that they were not in a position to answer questions. Instead they gave inaccurate and incorrect information to an Oireachtas Committee investigating the organisation they represented and presented such information as accurate and correct. Clearly therefore the Dail Public Accounts Committee was misled. Whether the PAC was intentionally misled or not only the Irish Red Cross officials will ever know. Mr. Forde does say in his letter that he did not intentionally mislead the Committee members.

In his letter Mr. Forde further states:

If I have offered any evidence that is inconsistent with these, I apologise for this but have done so only out of unfamiliarity and not with any intention to mislead”

Mr. Forde has admitted to the PAC that he and his colleagues, in relation to key aspects of the Committee’s questions, were “not prepared”, “not in a position to offer a definitive account” and “uncomfortable” and “unfamiliar”. Mr. Forde has only admitted this after his evidence given on the 19th January was robustly and credibly challenged. At no stage did he make such admissions during the hearing and instead presented serious inaccuracies as fact. He did this despite knowing he was not prepared, was not familiar, was not in a position to offer a definitive account and was uncomfortable in providing answers. This the Irish Red Cross did knowingly before publicly elected representatives of a national parliamentary committee. The fact that they were prepared to do so sums up the culture of the organisation.

In relation to Ms. Bulbulia’s letter (the link to the full letter is below) Mr. Forde says:

Ms. Bulbulia’s account may well be accurate as it relates to the Tipperary bank account, but I have no basis on which to make judgement”

Ms. Bulbulia’s letter completely contradicts Mr. Forde’s own evidence. Ms. Bulbulia, a board member at the time of the Tipperary bank account’s discovery, has clearly stated on record that she, other board members and the Secretary General were immediately informed in March/April 2008 about the account’s discovery.

Mr. Forde stated to the PAC hearing that no board member knew, that the Secretary General didn’t know and only the Consultant/Head of Finance knew and that he told none of his superiors. Now that Mr. Fore accepts that Ms. Bulbulia’s account may be accurate he must therefore accept that his own statements may be inaccurate. He must also accept that his attempt to scapegoat the former Consultant/Head of Finance by stating at the PAC hearing that he did not inform board members or the Secretary General about the account after he discovered it is grossly wrong and a serious injustice to the individual concerned. Mr. Forde should immediately issue a retraction of his statements in this regard and extend a public apology.

Mr. Forde also states in relation to Ms. Bulbulia’s letter

Ms. Bulbulia is correct in pointing to two inaccuracies in my evidence and I apologise for these. As I have earlier explained they are attributable to my unfamiliarity with these events and I did not intend to mislead the Committee”

The above is the second time in his letter to PAC of the 14th February that Mr. Forde is forced to apologise and claim he did not intend to mislead the Committee members. Mr. Forde admits that his evidence that the bank account was discovered in August 2008 is inaccurate and that Ms. Bulbulia’s assertion that it was discovered in March/April 2008 is correct. In his evidence to PAC Mr. Forde also stated that when the bank account was discovered in ‘August 2008’ it was immediately transferred to IRC head office in September 2008. Now that Mr. Forde has admitted he was incorrect to say the account was discovered in August 2008 it therefore follows his evidence that the money was ‘immediately’ transferred to IRC head office is also inaccurate. Clearly if the account was discovered in March/April 2008 and only transferred to IRC head office in September 2008 it took a full six months to do so. By providing the wrong information to PAC (unintentionally according to Mr. Forde) Mr. Forde avoided any questions from PAC as to why an undisclosed account, when discovered, would take a further six months to transfer the proceeds (€162,000) to its proper place in IRC head office. Mr. Forde is now surely obliged to answer the questions he avoided by giving inaccurate information.

The link to Ms. Bulbulia’s letter to PAC rejecting Mr. Forde’s evidence is:[PAC-315]Correspondence3.2.pdf

It is the view of this Blog that Mr. Forde and his two colleagues should re-present themselves before the Public Accounts Committee so that additional questions can be asked now that the true facts are beginning to materialise. It is also important that the IRC properly account for the inaccurate and 'definitive' information they presented despite now admitting they were not in a position to do so. They must be held to account for doing this.

As part of his conclusion Mr. Forde states in his letter

The Irish Red Cross has publicly acknowledged the governance failings that have taken place and apologised for them

The Irish Red Cross fails to comprehend that words are meaningless without action. If the governance failings have been acknowledged why is it that those responsible for these failings such as the Vice Chairman and the Treasurer as well as the acquiescent, complicit and indifferent members of the Central Council and Executive Committee all remain firmly in place controlling and dominating the Society?

Little in reality has changed at the Irish Red Cross. If ever proof was needed the disgraceful performance by Irish Red Cross officials in giving highly inaccurate and incorrect evidence to the Public Accounts Committee confirms this. The culture of deceit, cover up, secrecy, lack of transparency, little or no accountability and appalling governance remains as deep rooted as ever.

This Blog article will conclude with a quote from a letter written by Ms. Jennifer Bulbulia when she was an Irish Red Cross board member and Honorary Secretary of the Society. The letter was addressed to the then Chairman and copied to the entire board and is dated 16th May 2008. It summed up the culture of the Irish Red Cross then and it sums up the culture of the Irish Red Cross in 2012.

I have attended numerous meetings of the Finance Committee since December and have been truly shocked by the lack of transparency and proper process that has been uncovered

Monday, February 6, 2012

Irish Red Cross challenged over its evidence to parliamentary investigative committee

NOTE: On 2nd February 2012 the Dail Public Accounts Committee (PAC) once again (for the 3rd time) returned to the issue of the Irish Red Cross. It seems the PAC has every intention of pursuing the Irish Red Cross over its highly questionable evidence presented at PAC hearing of 19th January 2012. The exact transcript from 2nd February PAC is transcribed below as well as the link to the Parliament's website with the wording:

Chairman John Mc Guinness: No. 3.8 is correspondence dated 21 January 2012 from Mr. Noel Wardick, Former Head of International Department, Irish Red Cross regarding the appearance of the Irish Red Cross before the committee on 19 January 2012. It is to be noted and published. The correspondence is to be forwarded to the Irish Red Cross-----

Deputy Eoghan Murphy: Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy On the last item of correspondence 3.8, my understanding from the letter is that further correspondence is pending where pieces of the transcript will be highlighted for the committee. It is claimed that those pieces are inaccurate. This issue will stay on our agenda for the foreseeable future because there is going to be an issue with some of the evidence that was given at the hearing when the Irish Red Cross appeared before the committee a couple of weeks ago. I want to note that. When that further correspondence comes in, it should be sent to Irish Red Cross to ask for its comments on the issues raised.

Chairman: Information on John McGuinness Zoom on John McGuinness That has to do with evidence given, rather than the record of the meeting. Is that correct?

Deputy Eoghan Murphy: Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy That is correct.

Deputy Derek Nolan: Information on Derek Nolan Zoom on Derek Nolan Who sent that letter?

Chairman: Information on John McGuinness Zoom on John McGuinness Mr. Noel Wardick.

Deputy Derek Nolan: Information on Derek Nolan Zoom on Derek Nolan That is fine.

Chairman: Information on John McGuinness Zoom on John McGuinness Is that okay? Agreed.

Deputy Derek Nolan: Information on Derek Nolan Zoom on Derek Nolan Are we in a position to continue to challenge the Irish Red Cross or are we at the discretion of its goodwill to come back to the committee? As the Irish Red Cross is not obliged to report to the committee what is the position?

Chairman: Information on John McGuinness Zoom on John McGuinness Once it has given the evidence and it has been heard and there are issues arising from that, we are obliged to continue with it, and the Irish Red Cross is obliged to answer.

Deputy Derek Nolan: Information on Derek Nolan Zoom on Derek Nolan Okay.

Chairman: Information on John McGuinness Zoom on John McGuinness That is probably the route this will take.

Deputy Eoghan Murphy: Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy I wish to come back in on that issue. Deputy Nolan is correct on one point that we cannot keep on harassing people who have taken the time to appear before the committee and explain themselves. Following the appearance of the Irish Red Cross a number of people, not just Mr. Noel Wardick, have been in touch with me to express their concerns about certain things that were said, and people who were not previously in touch with me and who might have been named at that meeting, might have an issue with things that were said about their role or what knowledge they may or may not have had at the time. For that reason it is important that we continue to address the issue and bring to the Irish Red Cross those elements of the evidence it gave on the day.

Chairman: Information on John McGuinness Zoom on John McGuinness We can do that but there is a valid point in terms of Deputy Nolan has said. We cannot continue on willy nilly, we have to draw a line somewhere. Perhaps as we study the correspondence and the crossfire that has taken place, we can bring it to a natural end at some stage.

Deputy Eoghan Murphy: Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy Hopefully.

On 19th January 2012 the Irish Red Cross was hauled over the coals by Ireland’s most senior parliamentary committee, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC). As readers of this blog will be familiar the reason for the Society’s appearance before the Committee is the extensive misgovernance and financial irregularities at the charity.

In the course of giving evidence representatives of the Irish Red Cross told untruths and misrepresented facts. The evidence and excuses provided left many observers including the members of parliament sitting on the PAC shocked, angered and bemused.

Those responsible must be held to account for the evidence and inaccuracies provided. They must also apologise publicly and on the record as well as stating why they told untruths and clarify whether they did so knowingly. If they did so unknowingly the people who provided them the inaccurate information need to be removed from the Society immediately. If on the other hand the Irish Red Cross representatives provided inaccurate information knowingly they must resign forthwith.

At least two individuals have already formally and on record written to the Public Accounts Committee challenging the evidence provided by the Society. Following a review of this correspondence the PAC decided to publish both letters on public record. The two letters are transcribed in full below and the links to their publication on the Dail/Oireachtas website are also provided.

The letter written by Noel Wardick, former Head of International at the Irish Red Cross has been forwarded by PAC to the Irish Red Cross. The PAC has requested a formal written response from the Society to Wardick’s letter. This response will be published by PAC in due course.

It is very important that the PAC continues to pursue and challenge the Irish Red Cross who seemed to be under the mistaken illusion that once the PAC hearing on the 19th January concluded the matter would be closed. The Public Accounts Committee obviously takes a very dim view of receiving inaccurate and untruthful information.

The link to Noel Wardick’s published letter is:[PAC-R-262]Correspondence-3.8.pdf

The second letter to be published by PAC was written by Mr. Gerard Moyne, a current life member of the Irish Red Cross. Of particular note in Mr. Moyne’s letter is his assertion, contrary to what the Irish Red Cross has led us to believe, that is was not only not common practice for branches to open separate branch bank accounts for overseas appeals money but that such a practice was in fact frowned upon. Mr. Moyne claims that during his time as a Red Cross branch secretary overseas appeals monies were always expeditiously transferred directly to Irish Red Cross HQ in Dublin. The opposite happened in Tipperary where the national Vice Chairman, Anthony (Tony) Lawlor, was a bank account signatory. The link to Mr. Moyne’s letter is:

The full transcript of Wardick’s letter is as follows:

21st January 2012

Mr. John Mc Guinness, TD


Public Accounts Committee,

Leinster House,

Kildare Street,

Dublin 2.

Public Accounts Committee Hearing into Irish Red Cross 19th January 2012

Dear Chairman,

I watched the above hearing live on line and I can only describe my reaction to the statements and answers provided by the Irish Red Cross as one of shock, outrage and disgust.

The extent of misinformation and quite frankly untruths told is staggering. To do so on public record, in our national parliament and before elected representatives is astounding.

I believe great damage has been done to the image and reputation of the Red Cross, its emblem and everything it stands for. Based on what I witnessed at the hearing I greatly fear for the future, the integrity and the welfare of the Irish Red Cross.

Whether the Irish Red Cross representatives believed what they were saying to be accurate and true only they will ever know. Regardless it does not take away from the inaccuracy of very substantial parts of their evidence.

I intend to respond in detail to the statements and answers provided by the Red Cross representatives once the full transcript of the hearing becomes available. I will forward this to the Public Accounts Committee and the Department of Defence as a formal record.

In relation to one issue, however, I will record my view now. It is factually incorrect to say that when the Tipperary account was first discovered in 2008 that the then Head of Finance told nobody and that for a number of years no board member therefore knew about the account’s existence and/or discovery. In 2008 when the bank account was discovered at least three senior board members were informed. One of these subsequently resigned over the organisation’s failure to investigate the matter as well as other concerns the person had surrounding governance and finance. A fourth, the Vice Chairman who was one of the signatories on the Tipperary bank account, also obviously knew.

In addition to these board members the Secretary General of the Society at the time was immediately informed (2008). I am sure this can easily be verified by the individual who is currently a senior civil servant in the Department of Justice and Defence (he was on secondment to the Irish Red Cross as Secretary General at the time of the bank account’s discovery).

As Head of the International Department I was personally informed by the Secretary General of the bank account’s discovery circa Sept/Oct 2008. I have email correspondence to the Secretary General in early October 2008 stating that I felt the Vice Chairman should resign over the matter. I can provide a copy of this email if required. I continually called (until my dismissal) for an independent investigation into the account (at senior management meetings, at staff meetings and during numerous private discussions with two separate Secretary Generals).

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you as Chair Deputy Mc Guinness and all members of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) for investigating the Irish Red Cross and the allegations of misgovernance and financial malpractice. Given the enormous workload on the Committee there are many of us very appreciative that the PAC discussed this issue not only once but on two separate occasions, 13th October 2011 and 19th January 2012.

I think it only correct to note Deputy Kieran O’ Donnell for being an excellent Chair on the 19th and for allowing the hearing continue for well over two and a half hours thereby facilitating a rigorous and detailed questioning of the Irish Red Cross. Interventions by Deputies Derek Nolan, Simon Harris and Anne Ferris were also extremely important. In particular, however, I would wish to commend the lead questioner on the 19th, Deputy Eoghan Murphy. His knowledge of the subject matter was detailed and comprehensive and as such must have entailed a considerable investment of time, energy and preparation. In a time when public representatives are seemingly continually and collectively criticised I would want to put on record my own appreciation to all of those on PAC who obviously put significant effort and work into this case.

Yours sincerely,

Noel Wardick

12 Conquer Hill Avenue,


Dublin 3.

Cc: Minister for Justice and Defence, Mr. Alan Shatter, TD

The full transcript of Mr. Moyne’s letter to PAC is below:



Co. Donegal

23rd January 2012


The Chairperson & Committee Members

Eoin Kinane
Committee Secretariat
Committee of Public Accounts

Dear Mr Kinane,

I would appreciate it if you would circulate this letter to committee members of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

On Thursday last (19th January), I attended as an observer the meeting PAC held with representatives of the Dept. of Defence and the representatives of the Irish Red Cross Society.

I must state it is difficult as a committed member of the Irish Red Cross of some 38 years to observe the charade that was presented to the Committee. One might liken the evidence given by the Irish Red Cross to that given to a similar commission set up in the USA to investigate the events of 9/11. The evidence given to that commission is widely recognised as having blurred the facts as opposed to highlighting them. The Red Cross did not however present the facts to your Committee they waffled their way through the proceedings stating fiction as fact and presenting fact to support fiction.

The burglary of the Irish Red Cross head office in the 1980’s was used to add credence to a belief that the failures to present property information in the Society’s accounts were as a result of something that happened some three decades ago. Had the time frame been added when the Irish Red Cross answered the property questions I am sure the Committee would have been less than impressed.

When the PAC produce a transcript of the hearing I will respond in detail why it is I firmly believe that most of what was presented to the committee is fundamentally flawed and much of it inaccurate.

I did find the comments less than amusing of how ‘delighted’ all the IRC representatives were to be sitting giving evidence to the PAC. I feel that they should be totally ashamed and embarrassed, that given the facts, they truly are responsible for a litany of unforgivable errors. They should be ashamed to have brought the good name of the Red Cross into disrepute, not delighted having to defend its good name and explain their financial and governance irregularities.

I will state for the record that prior to the official line that no one knew about the Tipperary money for a very lengthy period after its discovery in 2008 by Mr Declan O Sullivan the facts are that quite a few people knew, the matter was being widely discussed amongst the membership in 2008 and 2009 that the Vice Chairman of the Society had not only failed to declare the Tsunami money but that the Tipperary Branch had not made returns at all to head office in several years, in downright breach of policy at the time (this is noted in the internal review into the Tipperary bank account). This information was being widely discussed on the grapevine amongst staff and volunteers.

Might I also comment on the issue of staff failures to control the level of monies coming in for the Tsunami Appeal. For many years prior to this, with alot less staff, large appeals were held for Armenia, Somalia and Sudan: to name but a few. This excuse has no grounding. The failure was with the board and NOT with staff who are being targeted by those board members and one or two senior managers guilty and complicit in this cover up.

During my time over a several year period as Secretary of the Red Cross in Donegal, it was not as stated to you at the PAC, a practice to put Appeal money into Branch accounts, in fact this was frowned upon. All money was sent directly to Head Office. This can easily be verified by production of Branch Accounts. It is very disconcerting that Red Cross staff are once again being blamed for what was an attempt to hide money.

I must congratulate the Committee for its respect of the good name of the Red Cross and the recognition of its vital role in our Society. I am sure the Committee were, as I was, stunned at the current Irish Red Cross leaders unwillingness to have the vice chairman stand down having held office for an inordinate period of twenty one years.

They stated that they cannot get a single person out of the so called five thousand volunteers to take on the roles of the Treasurer and Vice Chairman. This is a derisible excuse.

I look forward to presenting my views in detail on the disgraceful performance of the Irish Red Cross at the PAC on the 19th January. It is important that the public record shows fact.

I am most concerned that the characters of a number of persons have been brought into disrepute by Mr Forde and Mr O Callaghan in the giving of their evidence. I trust the PAC will allow the records to show that these persons have been given an opportunity to respond to the allegations presented to the PAC. I have no doubt that these persons will in due course respond to the allegations by the Red Cross against them.

Sincerely yours

Gerard Moyne

Life Member Irish Red Cross

Half a truth is often a great lie-Benjamin Franklin