The State’s regulator for housing bodies has appointed statutory inspectors to conduct an investigation into serious financial issues in the Peter McVerry Trust, one of the largest providers of homeless services.
The Approved Housing Bodies Regulatory Authority (AHBRA), which regulates not-for-profit housing bodies, has this week opened an investigation into the charity.
Concerns about the future solvency of the charity have been discussed at senior levels in recent days, according to one source with knowledge of the crisis talks.
This July the homelessness charity had informed the Department of Housing that it was facing serious cash flow pressures. On foot of the concerns auditors PwC were appointed to conduct a financial and governance review of the trust.
The charity, which provides homeless accommodation to more than 2,000 people each night, has expanded significantly in recent years.
In a statement to The Irish Times on Tuesday, AHBRA confirmed it had used its statutory powers to appoint inspectors to conduct an investigation of the trust. “The appointed inspectors have been asked to prepare and submit to AHBRA a report on their investigation and findings. It is important to note that the commencement of a statutory investigation is not in itself a finding of any wrongdoing.”
The regulator said it had “determined that a statutory investigation is required having identified concerns in relation to the organisation”, which it was notified of in July.
A draft of the PwC report has been completed in the last fortnight, which raised further concerns about the organisation’s finances, with a full report to follow in the coming weeks.
The report, commissioned by the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE), one of its biggest funders, detailed issues around the warehousing of debt by the charity, as well as significant cash flow issues it was having meeting its day to day costs.
In a statement, the Peter McVerry Trust said it had been engaging with AHBRA since it first notified the regulator of cash flow issues earlier this year.
“We can confirm that we received notice this afternoon of a decision by AHBRA to appoint inspectors to the charity,” it said.
“This is an important part of transparency and accountability for our organisation, and we will work with the inspectors and AHBRA in the best interest of the over 2,000 service users and tenants as well as the staff that support them,” the statement said.
It is understood the Charities Regulator has also requested documentation from the charity in recent weeks, related to an ongoing enquiry by its compliance and enforcement unit.
“The Charities Regulator is engaging with Peter McVerry Trust on foot of correspondence it received from the charity in July 2023,” a spokeswoman for the charity watchdog said.
Peter McVerry Trust’s latest annual report stated it had income of €53 million in 2021, with €38 million of that coming from State funding.
Emails from the charity to the DRHE state it notified both AHBRA and the Charities Regulator about its financial issues on July 14th.
Fr Peter McVerry, the long-time homelessness campaigner who set up the charity in 1983, is not involved in the day-to-day operations of the trust, but remains the secretary of its board.
At the start of this year Pat Doyle, who had been chief executive of the charity for nearly two decades, announced he would be stepping down from the role. Francis Doherty, who had been its director of housing and communications, took over as chief executive in June.