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EDITORIAL: More oversight needed of the charities sector

July 17th, 2016 5:00 PM

By Southern Star Team

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THE decision to wind down the suicide charity Console in the wake of all the sensational revelations of abuse of its governance and the inappropriate and extravagant spending of much of its funds by some senior personnel has come as no surprise, but – in the light of other recent scandals in the sector – one has to ask why is this sort of thing still happening? 

While Charities Regulator John Farrelly’s office is belatedly being given the powers needed to pro-actively investigate charities with effect from September 5th next, it cannot do so without the appropriate human resources and the necessary expertise needs to be recruited as quickly as possible. However, in the meantime, there needs to be some investigation into how statutory bodies, such as the HSE, who part-fund such charities, satisfy themselves that their contributions are not squandered and that they are getting value for money in the delivery of the services they are outsourcing.

The Auditor and Comptroller General does a good job in identifying waste and inefficiencies across the public sector. Could his office not also be deployed to investigate deficiencies in oversight by statutory bodies of outsourced funding, including the length of time it took the HSE auditors to unearth Console’s problems?

The public needs to be satisfied that taxpayers’ money given to charities is not being squandered, otherwise all charities will suffer. We heard Console interim chief executive David Hall call the charity sector an ‘industry’ in media interviews, but this is surely somewhat alien to people’s perception of what charity is in its purest sense –giving money or assistance to help less-fortunate people in need. 

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