Board members of the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (Glen) are to meet the Charities Regulator this week over allegations of financial mismanagement made by its outgoing executive director.
Áine Duggan, whose resignation after seven months in the post takes effect this week, has said a full audit of the charity’s finances is needed to establish whether any funds were misappropriated.
Glen has said there is no reason to suspect any misappropriation of funds and is expected to seek an early finalisation of the audit when it meets the regulator.
However, according to Ms Duggan, who first raised the concerns about governance and financial management, no one can say “100 per cent” there was no misappropriation until the audit is completed.
The charity funded the Seanad election campaign of board member Kieran Rose last year after he was unable to open a bank account due to an out-of-date passport. He later reimbursed the charity for services provided, costing several thousand euro.
Separately, two staff members who allege they were bullied have been interviewed by an external investigator appointed by the charity. One resigned last month after a period of sick leave.
Ms Duggan told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that she became aware of grave issues and irregularities at the charity shortly after being appointed last October. She brought these to the attention of the board and recommended “corrective action”.
A big concern was that a number of financial transactions, totalling more than €60,000, were not being reported in the management accounts seen by the board, she said.
The board was also unaware of spending that had taken place on a political campaign and on Glen credit cards, she said. “People got into the habit of doing things without necessarily thinking about it, and that was all behaviour that needed to be corrected.”
Ms Duggan acknowledged the money used for a political campaign was later reimbursed, but added that the funds appear in a “side account”, rather than in the management accounts.
The use of financial transactions “off the books” went back a decade, she claimed. She said there was “complete agreement” on issues of concern when they were raised within the organisation.
Asked why she was stepping down, Ms Duggan said the issues were of grave concern and Glen would be best served by the appointment of a consultant to steer the organisation through the current phase until it is “CEO-ready”.
Glen had a deficit of almost €92,000 in 2015, up from €71,000 the year before, according to the most recent accounts filed at the Companies Registration Office. Its reserves dropped from €317,000 to €225,000.
There were eight staff in 2015, with one earning more than €60,000 and four earning over €50,000. Since then, two staff have been made redundant and two more were not replaced after they left.
The biggest single source of funding was Chuck Feeney’s Atlantic Philanthropies, which provided €150,000 in 2015 and €250,000 in 2014. Mr Feeney made his last grants last year, leaving a hole in the finances of Glen and many other charities. Glen also gets funding from the HSE, the National Office of Suicide Prevention and the Department of Education.
Ms Duggan succeeded Brian Sheehan as executive director last October when he left to become general secretary of the Social Democrats after nine years with the charity.