Chief executive resigns as Goal reels from Syria inquiry

Charity faces US inquiry into alleged bribery and bid-rigging on Turkey-Syria border

Barry Andrews, a former Fianna Fáil minister,  took the helm at Goal in 2013. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Barry Andrews, a former Fianna Fáil minister, took the helm at Goal in 2013. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Barry Andrews has resigned as chief executive of Goal as the aid agency reels from a US investigation into its multimillion-euro Syria operation, The Irish Times has learned.

Mr Andrews, a former Fianna Fáil minister who took the helm at the organisation in 2013, informed the Goal board in August of his intention to step down as soon as his successor could be identified. That appointment will be made in the coming days.

His departure comes as Ireland’s biggest aid agency grapples with a crisis surrounding a US investigation into its aid operation in Syria. The US government’s foreign aid arm, USAID, earlier this year told Goal and a number of other agencies in the field to halt certain procurement with American funds pending the outcome of its inquiry into alleged bribery and bid-rigging involving suppliers on the Turkey-Syria border.

DFA funding

The investigation, which is being carried out by the US Office of the Inspector General (OIG), has resulted in the Department of Foreign Affairs withholding 1€10 million in funding from Goal. The chief operating officer, Jonathan Edgar, who was a highly influential figure at the agency, resigned last month.

In a statement to The Irish Times last night, in response to questions about imminent changes at senior levels in the agency, Mr Andrews confirmed he was stepping down after concluding that Goal needed “a fresh start in terms of leadership”.

“The circumstances of the OIG investigation over the last seven months has been extremely uncomfortable for Goal and we are working hard on correcting the weaknesses identified and providing all necessary assurances to our donors,” Mr Andrews said.

He said he did not “for one moment” resent the robust oversight of Goal’s donor partners. Goal applied exacting standards to the management of its programmes and as chief executive he had endeavoured to apply those standards.

“However, it has become clear to me that Goal requires a fresh start in terms of leadership. To that end, I informed Goal’s board of directors last August of my intention to step down as CEO as soon as a suitable replacement could be identified.”

Mr Andrews will continue to lead the senior management team until next month, when his successor takes up the role.

Until then, he said, he would continue to provide “the necessary assurances to our donors that will allow Goal to continue providing life-saving services to its 12 million beneficiaries.”

‘Turbulent time’

In a separate statement to The Irish Times, Goal chairwoman Anne O’Leary thanked Mr Andrews for his dedication and commitment over the past four years. She said he had been appointed during a “turbulent time” in Goal’s history – a reference to the acrimonious departure of founder John O’Shea in 2012 – and that he was largely responsible for helping to stabilise the organisation.

“He also led Goal during a period of strong growth.The number of people Goal have been able to reach has increased in his time from approximately four million people across 13 countries at the end of 2012, to 12 million people across 19 countries by the end of 2015,” she said.