Five directors of Positive Action told a HSE internal audit team investigating the group's spending over several years they felt the audit was an "overly personalised attack" on an organisation that supported women who had been "singularly failed" by the State.
Positive Action, a support group for women who contracted the hepatitis C virus from contaminated blood products, went into liquidation last April after the HSE ceased to provide funding. The HSE audit was finalised this month.
In a joint response to a draft audit report sent to them ahead of the audit being finalised, the five directors said they were “greatly disappointed” by the negative tone and content of the report, which they felt was an “overly personalised attack ” on the group.
They noted that Positive Action had made a “great difference to the lives of women who were singularly failed by the medical authorities and the Irish government”.
They said that for many years the organisation had had a “positive and productive relationship” with the HSE but “sadly this relationship has broken down and we feel that this report is an attempt to justify the withdrawal of support for our organisation”.
They cited “serious inaccuracies” in the report which had “lost focus and direction”.
“We feel that this report is not an impartial and dispassionate review.”
Another former director submitted a lengthy response detailing what the individual felt were inaccuracies in the report. The HSE’s internal audit unit later wrote to the individual confirming certain details had been revised while, in other cases, it said no documentation was available to the auditors to confirm issues raised.
The former director concluded: “I feel that I have been made a scapegoat by the committee for the purpose of the report.”
However, another director cited several issues they had observed while serving on the committee of Positive Action and claimed any attempts at reform meant the individual “lost favour” with other committee members.
However, the former executive member said the organisation’s “very sick cohort” of hepatitis C victims were devastated to lose the group.
Another former committee member said: “I am angered at the way the funding was misused on so many occasions” and had been “shocked” at how the organisation was managed.
“I did my best to correct things but was shot down by the majority of the committee bar one or sometimes two persons.”
This individual added that it was “a very sad time for the ordinary members” of Positive Action who had suffered a “terrible injustice” and who had “lost their support group through no fault on their part”.
In its response to the audit, Positive Action stated that it had made all documents available to the auditors and had attempted in good faith to respond to all request for information, adding that any information it had difficulty in providing was due to matters being investigated by gardaí.
It undertook to undertake an assessment of its policies, procedures and roles on a quarterly basis, to strengthen the role of the committee in governance and good practice and to introduce a fraud and corruption policy.
However, an auditors’ note said the governance plan had not been implemented by the time Positive Action was put into liquidation by its directors earlier this year.