Government releases €4m funding to aid agency Goal

More than €7m had been withheld over USAID inquiry into bribery claims

 Charlie Flanagan: following “an intensive process of engagement with Goal”, Irish Aid was releasing €3.92 million in development funding for Goal. Photograph: Etienne Laurent/EPA

Charlie Flanagan: following “an intensive process of engagement with Goal”, Irish Aid was releasing €3.92 million in development funding for Goal. Photograph: Etienne Laurent/EPA

 

The Government has released almost €4 million in funding to the aid agency Goal, giving an important boost to the organisation as it attempts to repair the damage from a US investigation into its operation in Syria.

Last summer the Department of Foreign Affairs withheld €7.16 million in long-term development funding from Goal “pending further clarification” on the inquiry by the US government’s foreign aid arm, USAID, into alleged bribery and bid-rigging. It also held back €2.95 million in humanitarian funding.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan on Tuesday said that following “an intensive process of engagement with Goal”, Irish Aid was releasing €3.92 million in development funding for the agency “to meet the cost of development programmes which were delivered on the ground in recent months”.

It is understood this covers agreed spending by Goal in the field up until the end of October. The remainder of the €7.16 million in development aid will fall due by the end of the year, but the Minister of State with responsibility for Irish Aid, Joe McHugh, said only that funding for the rest of Goal’s work in 2016 remained “under consideration.”

Goal does not use Irish Aid grants in Syria, where its huge operation is largely funded by USAID.

The agency has been in turmoil since April, when USAID ordered it to halt procurement using some American funds pending the outcome of an investigation that drew in a number of major aid agencies operating in Syria from bases in Turkey.

Goal chief executive Barry Andrews stepped down in October, saying the organisation needed “a fresh start in terms of leadership”, and was replaced by Celine Fitzgerald, an expert in change management. She has been tasked with overseeing a period of transition at the agency over the next 12 months.

Goal welcomed the Government announcement on Tuesday, saying it followed extensive engagement with Irish Aid and USAID.

“The board of Goal is enormously grateful to all those who have supported the organisation over the last 40 years and in particular those who have continued to support it at this difficult time,” it said.

Goal has drafted an action plan designed to rebuild trust among its institutional donors and the general public after the events of the past eight months. “Goal remains committed, more than ever, to our millions of beneficiaries around the world. In particular, at this desperate time for the people of Syria, we are determined to continue to support the 850,000 people we reach there every day,” it stated.

The Irish Times understands that the US investigation, which is being carried out by the US office of the inspector general, is focusing on one individual with links to Goal and on a particular tender for items valued at $170,000 (€154,000).