Regulator concerned over €84,000 payments to charity founders

Ataxia Ireland chief did not tell trustees of sums provided to her parents, report finds

 

The Charities Regulator has written to the trustees of Ataxia Ireland CLG asking them to find out whether payments of €84,009 made to the two founding former trustees are recoverable.

Inspectors for the regulator found that the payments, made between January 2008 and April 2016, “were contrary to the Revenue’s stated position” that trustess should carry out their duties without payment other than reasonable out of pocket expenses.

Ataxia Ireland was set up in 1980 to support people and families living with Friedreichs Ataxia, a genetic and progressive disorder of the central nervous system .

In November of last year, the regulator appointed two inspectors to investigate the affairs of Ataxia Ireland following being notified of concerns. This was the first time such powers were used by the regulator, who received the inspectors’ report this week.

Having accepted the recommendations in full the regulator published the report on Thursday and has written to the Ataxia Ireland trustees, giving them 21 days to respond.

The inspectors also found that Ataxia Ireland’s chief executive did not inform the charity’s other trustees of the existence of the €84,009 payments to the two founding trustees, who are her parents, and how the payments were in conflict with the Revenue’s stated position on trustee remuneration.

The report said “the two founding trustees did not disclose to the wider management committee that served between January 2014 and mid-2015 details of any payments they received.”

Pension contributions

The inspectors found the charity had further paid the employee pension contributions of the chief executive, some €38,500, and another staff member, some €900, rather than deducting these from their salaries, a practice the inspectors said “began in July 2010 and was not identified until October 2016”.

The report recommended that the regulator obtain undertakings from the trustees of Ataxia Ireland to implement a detailed action plan “in order to address the deficiencies in the direction and management of the charity’s affairs.”

Charities Regulator chief executive John Farrelly said “we have written to the charity trustees to instruct them that we require an action plan which addresses the inspectors’ recommendations.”

He added that “if we are not satisfied with the response from the charity trustees we reserve the right to intervene under section 74 of the Charities Act 2009 to ensure the charity is protected”. This measure allows the regulator to apply to the High Court for a range of measures to protect a charity.

A spokesman for Ataxia Ireland said he had “no comment” on the matter.

A copy of the inspectors’ report has been sent to the Revenue Commissioners. The Charities Regulator has also met the HSE, as a primary funder of Ataxia Ireland, to get assurances that services provided to the charity’s users continue, as required actions are being addressed.