Independent TD Mattie McGrath has called on the Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald to immediately escalate the commencement of a section of the Charities Act which has prevented a full scale investigation into irregular financial activity at the suicide awareness charity, Console. Deputy McGrath was speaking as further details emerge of accounting and spending irregularities that have seen the national organisation mired in controversy over the last week:
“Yet again the Console scandal has forced upon us the realisation that our regulatory regimes are mere window dressing to provide the appearance of genuine oversight and accountability.
I have asked the Minister to clarify why Part 4 of the Charities Act 2009, which gives the Charities Regulatory Authority statutory powers of investigation has not yet been commenced.
We cannot allow a situation to continue where the enormously beneficial work that charities engage in is being seriously undermined either by lack of effective governance or by a lack of robust legislation.
From what we know to date, in 2015 alone there was a 40% drop in donations to charities nationally. That represents a sizeable reduction in vital activities that a huge number of people depend on.
If that scaling back of contributions becomes permanent due to the perception of financial mismanagement then we are really going to be in a very difficult space given the extent to which charities here provide what are essentially public services in other EU states.
The Minister, and indeed the HSE, needs to immediately review the existing statutory powers and amend them with all haste.
If this does not happen then as usual it will be the most vulnerable who will pay the price of obvious governance and accountability failures,” concluded Deputy McGrath.