Department to audit Goal as part of relationship ‘normalisation’

Audit to examine oversight procedures board governance and fraud-reporting systems

The audit planned by the Department of Foreign Affairs is scheduled to begin later this month. Photograph: Frank Miller

The audit planned by the Department of Foreign Affairs is scheduled to begin later this month. Photograph: Frank Miller

 

The Department of Foreign Affairs is to carry out an audit of Goal as it “normalises” its relationship with the charity three years after it was hit by a corruption scandal.

The audit, which is scheduled to begin later this month, will examine a wide range of issues including oversight procedures, board governance and fraud-reporting systems, according to tender documents

In 2016 the department, which funds Goal through its Development Co-Operation and Africa Division (DCAD), temporarily suspended grants to the charity following accusations of improprieties in its procurement practices in Syria.

USAID, the US government development agency, also temporarily suspended funding to certain parts of Goal’s operations in Syria. Funding from both organisations was later reinstated following assurances from Goal management about oversight procedures.

The allegations related to allegedly corrupt practices by a small number of Goal employees. They arose following a wide-ranging investigation by the US inspector general into charities operating in the region.

Structural reforms

Since then the DCAD has funded Goal on a year-to-year basis, paying over €27.2 million to date. During that time Government officials have “closely monitored Goal’s performance and received updates regarding their structural reforms,” according to a department document.

It said significant changes have been made to the organisation’s senior management team and noted that Siobhán Walsh was appointed as chief executive last year.

Government officials also conducted a field visit to a Goal operation in Sierra Leone in 2017, “the findings of which were broadly positive,” it said.

The department said: “Since 2016, Goal has implemented significant reforms of its finance, procurement and accountability systems.”

According to a request for tender by the department, DCAD has decided, on the basis on analysis carried out since 2016, to “normalise” its relationship with Goal and enter into a three-year strategic partnership with the agency. This replaces the year-to-year funding model which was introduced post-2016.

As part of the recent partnership agreement, Goal management consented to the department conducting a governance review of the organisation. The Department of Foreign Affairs has sought a private company to carry out the audit and provide a draft report by November 25th.

Goal is mainly funded by USAID which contributed more than €45 million last year, up from €37 million the year before. The Irish Government, through its development arm Irish Aid, contributed €11 million.

A Goal spokeswoman said yesterday such audits were a normal part of donor contracts. “We welcome this level of engagement ,” she said.

Separately, US authorities are attempting to extradite a former Goal employee on charges of theft, bribery and witness tampering in relation to the 2016 investigation.

The former employee, Ernest Halilov from Turkmenistan, is accused of bribing a Goal procurement manager for confidential information about a flour contract. He allegedly gave her cash to furnish her apartment and paid for an overnight shopping trip, according to US court documents.

It is understood Mr Halilov, who worked as a logistics officer with the agency, is currently in custody in Ukraine.