Console affair sparks call for PAC inquiry into charity

Committee should investigate charity as it receives public funds, says Fine Gael deputy

 

Financial management at the suicide prevention charity Console should be investigated by the Public Accounts Committee, a Fine Gael TD has said. Alan Farrell said the committee should be tasked with investigating the charity, given that it is in receipt of public funds.

His comments followed the resignation of Console’s founder and chief executive Paul Kelly in response to allegations of mismanagement and poor governance at the charity. Mr Kelly’s wife and sister resigned from their positions on the board, which has appointed two independent experts to investigate the running of the charity up to now.

Console is also the subject of an audit by the Department of Foreign Affairs, which has funded its UK operation, and may also face an investigation by the UK Charity Commission.

It is understood Mr Kelly has provided the Health Service Executive (HSE) with a response to an internal audit report into Console which is thought to be very critical. The HSE is expected to review its funding arrangements with Console in light of the internal audit report.

It is understood the HSE yesterday met David Hall, one of two individuals appointed by the Console board to review the issues raised in the internal audit and in an RTÉ investigation into the charity.

Controversy

Mr Farrell, a member-designate of the incoming committee, said it was important that users of the services provided by Console should be able to continue to avail of them during the current controversy.

“It is the duty of the committee to ensure public funds are used effectively and for their intended purpose. In that regard, given the reports which suggest mismanagement has occurred in Console, and concerns regarding the financial accounts of the charity, an investigation would be warranted to ensure that public monies were not misused.”

Charities regulator John Farrelly declined to comment on the controversy. A spokesman said the authority did not comment on individual concerns against a charity as this could prejudice future investigations or legal proceedings he or the Garda might take.

He said the regulator considered potential breaches of the Charities Acts very seriously and encouraged members of the public to make contact where they had concerns over non-compliance.

“If we believe any charitable organisation is in breach of legislation, it is our policy to require a meeting with their trustees to seek assurances that they are in compliance with the law,” the spokesman added. “If these assurances cannot be met, the regulator may take further action under the Charities Acts.”

Regulation of charities began two years ago and so far 8,000 organisations have registered with the authority, with a further 1,500 applications being processed. Since 2014, about 300 “concerns” have been made against 130 groups, most of them charities, the spokesman said.