Aid agency Goal’s future hinges on donations and debts, say auditors

Financial breakdown indicates ‘reasonable expectation’ the NGO’s operations can continue

Goal’s largest donor was USAID, which accounted for €78m of total income.

Goal’s largest donor was USAID, which accounted for €78m of total income.

 

Goal can only survive if it continues to receive funding from its donors and collect outstanding debts, the aid agency’s auditors have said.

Goal’s financial statement for 2015, which was released on Thursday, states that the agency’s directors had a “reasonable expectation” that the company would continue in operational existence.

The statement also noted that “the ability to continue as a going concern is dependent on the continued funding of programmes by donors together with the collection of outstanding debtors owed.”

“These conditions indicate the existence of a material uncertainty which may cast significant doubt over the company’s ability to continue as a going concern,” according to auditors Deloitte. The accounting firm went on to say that the directors were satisfied the accounts could be prepared on the basis that the company would continue as a going concern.

Goal was thrown into crisis last year when it was drawn into an investigation by the US Office of the Inspector General into alleged collusion and bid-rigging in southern Turkey, where Goal and other aid agencies base their Syria operations.

The investigation prompted the Government to withhold €7 million in funding from Goal, although more than half of that was released last month and the remainder is likely to be paid next month. USAID, the US government’s development arm, which is Goal’s biggest donor, also released new funding for Goal programmes in three countries last month.

The newly-published financial statement confirms that Goal’s income in 2015 was €210 million, making it by far Ireland’s biggest aid agency at the time. Its largest donor was USAID, which accounted for €78 million of total income, followed by the British government (€36 million), Irish Aid (€15 million) and the European Union (€13 million).

Goal’s rapid growth in 2014-15, a period in which its income rose by 69 per cent, was largely due to its huge humanitarian operation in Syria, where it reached over one million people, and its work on Ebola in West Africa. Expenditure in Syria alone amounted to €78 million, compared to €46 million in 2014.

In 2015, Goal’s charitable expenditure overall increased by 86 per cent to €198 million, underlining the phenomenal expansion in the organisation’s activities in a short period.

In an interview with The Irish Times on Thursday, recently-appointed general manager Celine Fitzgerald admitted that growth in the charity’s internal structures, including in areas such as compliance and internal audit, had failed to keep pace with its budget.

“I think they were getting there, but there was a lag effect. The numbers weren’t growing to support the budget as fast as they needed to,” she said.

Although the directors expect Goal to continue as a going concern, according to the statement, they “have evaluated the options available and anticipate a reduced level of operations in 2017”.

Last week Goal announced that it was seeking 25 redundancies out of a workforce of about 120 in its Dublin and London offices. Five senior managers have left the organisation since the crisis began, including chief executive Barry Andrews and chief operating officer Jonathan Edgar.

The financial statement shows that the highest earner at Goal in 2015 was the chief executive of Goal USA, who at the time was Mark Bartolini. Mr Bartolini, who resigned last year, received between €220,000 and €229,000.

Mr Andrews received €95,000 plus an employer pension contribution of €20,000. However, an unnamed Goal UK employee had a salary of between €160,000 and €169,000 while nine other staff members received between €100,000 and €129,000.

Asked by The Irish Times on Thursday whether she had examined the option of winding up Goal, Ms Fitzgerald said no.

“I believe that we can put Goal on a sustainable footing and we are focused on that task,” she said. “That said, we are somewhat vulnerable to external shocks. In any case I think there are a lot of other options you would explore before you considered winding the organisation down.”