Goal set to appoint new chief executive


THE AID agency Goal is due to appoint an external candidate as its new chief executive this month following the acrimonious departure of its founder, John O’Shea.

Speaking to The Irish Times this week, Jonathan Edgar, acting chief operations officer, said interviews had taken place for the post “and I would say within the next two weeks we should have the candidate selected”.

Mr O’Shea stepped down at the end of August after settling a High Court action against the board aimed at stopping it from taking steps to remove him from his position.

The charity has said it would not be making any comment about the nature of the settlement, including the costs involved, while Mr O’Shea has declined to comment since his resignation.

It is understood, however, a key factor was disagreement over plans to expand the powers of the board at the expense of the chief executive.

In recent years, “there was more and more requirement from the Government to demonstrate governance at board level,” Mr Edgar said.

“Goal has always been very strong at a managerial level. It has also very strong managers who were driven and focused and knew how to deliver on the ground but we needed to strengthen the perception, if you like, of the Goal board and to make sure the board was able to operate effectively with key stakeholders, the likes of the Irish Government and also to stand over the growth of the organisation.”

Mr Edgar said he was unable to say precisely why Mr O’Shea had left, adding: “I don’t want to be speaking on his behalf but he was a man who wanted to get things done . . .

“John had given 35 years of life to Goal. He set the tone and the culture of Goal. But I think 35 years down the line, the sector has changed, it has changed considerably . . . As a sector, we had to change the way we were thinking.

“It’s not acceptable just to set up a feeding programme for starving children or health clinics; you also had to justify the impact of those clinics and demonstrate that the funding is spent in the best, most efficient and effective way.”

Mr Edgar said: “To be fair to John, he also understood the importance of accounting for every penny. There was a bit of a misnomer there about him because, while he was quite driven and direct, he also understood fully the importance of governance.”

On his departure, Goal said it intended to explore opportunities to collaborate with Mr O’Shea in the future, and discussions had taken place on this at board level, Mr Edgar said. Mr O’Shea’s daughters, Lisa and Karen, continue to work in fundraising for the charity.

As for his replacement, “it will be an external appointment,” he said.

A former management consultant with PriceWaterhouseCoopers, who was recruited by Mr O’Shea 10 years ago and has worked as Goal’s country director in Kosovo and Serbia, Mr Edgar, despite being Goal’s most senior manager, has ruled himself out of the process.

“I felt that it would be good to have some fresh blood coming into the organisation. Also, one of the most important things during this process was transparency. I think having worked so close to the management team, and so close to John, it wouldn’t have been appropriate.”

Mr Edgar was keen to emphasise the upheaval has not affected day-to-day operations, nor donations to the charity. It is setting up a new aid programme in Syria, and expanding operations in South Sudan.

“Goal is not going to change in that we still work in the most complex environments in the world for the world’s poorest people. We will still do it more efficiently than most other agencies because we don’t believe in spending money that’s not purely for alleviating poverty and saving lives.”

Although the salaries at Goal had drawn some negative publicity, Mr Edgar said: “I think, out of all the agencies, we would be well below what others get paid.”

While two employees had a salary of more than €100,000 last year, currently no one earned above this threshold, he said.