Future of embattled charity to be decided at egm

Mon, Jun 21, 2010, 01:00

A BOARDROOM battle is looming at the controversial charity Icross for control of more than €500,000 in charity donations.

Supporters of Kenyan-based Irish charity chief Dr Mike Meegan, who has denied allegations of sexual assault and financial impropriety made against him in the High Court, are seeking to gain access to the funds held by the Irish arm of the charity.

They argue the money was raised on the back of publicity for his work and the proceeds of his books and should be released for use in his African projects.

However, former associates who have broken with Mr Meegan over the allegations, are seeking to have the company wound up and its assets disbursed on other aid projects.

The battle for control of the charity will be fought at an extraordinary general meeting next month.

At present, Icross Ltd is unable to function as a normal company because it has only one director, Tim Bourke.

He asked the Commissioners of Charitable Bequests to take over the remaining funds but his application has been refused.

The commissioners ruled last month that the liquidation of the company was a matter for its directors and they could not be of any assistance.

Supporters of Mr Meegan then demanded an egm, at which they will seek new directors appointed.

However, Mr Bourke has also tabled motions calling for the appointment of two new directors who are opposed to the charity boss and seeking the winding up of the organisation.

Up to eight members of the charity are entitled to attend. They include its 95-year-old co-founder Joe Barnes, who supports Mr Meegan, and the latters former publicist, Rebecca Burrell, who supports Mr Bourke.

Mr Meegan is not a member of the Irish organisation, which is run separately from Icross in Kenya.

Both sides claim they have the numbers to carry the day.

Mr Bourke says Icross has €266,000 in Irish bank accounts and is also in receipt of substantial bequests.

Almost €100,000 was repaid to Irish Aid in 2007 after its auditor raised concerns about financial controls at the charity.

In a statement issued last week, Mr Meegan claimed the allegations against him were linked to his legal moves to trace funds raised in Ireland for his programmes.

“These funds, including those raised from public speaking events and the sale of books written by Michael Meegan, were to be disbursed to support Icross health programmes – yet were not transferred to Kenya and are seemingly no longer in the Icross Ireland accounts.”

Four former members of staff in Nairobi have made allegations of sexual assault against Mr Meegan, who denies the claims and says he is the victim of an orchestrated campaign of vilification by rivals in the aid business.

In April, he tried and failed to get a High Court injunction preventing a Sunday newspaper from publishing any material alleging he sexually assaulted or abused anyone.

Mr Meegan says he plans to write a book about the controversy and has denied claims that he intends to leave Kenya, where he has worked in Maasai communities for 30 years.

The charity is continuing to operate but has suffered financially because of the allegations and some local staff are currently working without pay.

Three present and former staff have issued statements in support of Mr Meegan.