Friend of former CEO of housing charity slept in unit, watchdog finds

Cabhru Housing Association Services use of resources focus of Charities Regulator report

A friend of a former chief executive of a housing charity for older people stayed overnight on at least one occasion at a housing unit owned by the organisation, a report from the Charities Regulator has found.

An investigation into Cabhru Housing Association Services has found a friend of the former chief executive was observed being present in and using an apartment while the board of charity was not aware of the arrangement and did not give approval for it.

Cabhru Housing Association Services provides independent living for elderly people in Dublin. In early 2020, the Charities Regulator received a “concern” in relation to the use of the charitable assets of the charity and the watchdog determined that a statutory investigation was warranted after engaging with the organisation over a number of months.

An inspector’s report into the charity, published on Wednesday, said staff at Cabhru “upon becoming concerned about the potential private/unauthorised use of the apartment” by the former chief executive’s friend notified the board which took “prompt action”.


Vacant apartments

The inspectors also found that there appears to have been an agreed arrangement in place between the former chief executive and the board that facilitated the use of vacant apartments for office purposes and/or occasional overnight stays by the former chief executive.

“This arrangement was made on the basis that it should not prevent occupation by valid tenants, and that the former CEO/consultant had to commute to/from Co Down,” the report said.

The report also said that the use of an address relating to a housing unit owned by the charity for the purpose of registering and/or operating a company not related to the organisation was “inappropriate”.

Inspectors said the charity did facilitate short-term renting agreements with students but that this practice was put in place “to ensure that some value was obtained from the charity assets while the de-tenanting process was taking place” for the purpose of redeveloping McSweeney House.

McSweeney House

“No evidence was provided to suggest that existing tenants were removed from McSweeney House with a view to increase profits generated through student rentals,” the report said.

However, the board and former chief executive “did not adequately secure the interests of the charity” by ensuring signed rental agreements were in place for the commercial letting to the student agency and short-term lettings to students.

Inspectors also said no signed agreement was put in place between the charity and the former chief executive, “despite numerous decisions regarding his role, remuneration and appointment being minuted during board meetings”.

Helen Martin, chief executive of the Charities Regulator, said Cabhru Housing Association Services was furnished with a copy of the report and was afforded the opportunity to provide an update.

“The board of trustees of the charity responded promptly outlining the actions that the charity had taken to date to address matters raised in the report,” Ms Martin said.

“The Charities Regulator will continue to engage with the charity and, as part of that engagement, our compliance and enforcement unit will follow up with the board of trustees to ensure that any actions required to address matters referred to in the inspectors’ report have been implemented.”

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times