This article was originally published by RTE.
The RTÉ Investigations Unit has seen a copy of the final report presented last week to the board of Console by its interim CEO David Hall. Ultimately, the report recommends that Console be liquidated as a result of a number of concerns identified by David Hall about the charity, some of which he describes as “exceptionally grave”.
In his report, David Hall states that “The issues outlined in this report emanated in totality from the former CEO in my view and the reforms required are not a reflection on the current staff of the charity.”
Amongst the issues raised in the report are:
“A number of centres are in significant rent arrears and Console risks being evicted from some centres.”
“A number of the premises do not have formal leases or if they do long term rental agreements are not in place. Generally, leases that are available are only for 1 year. There is therefore a significant risk that current, existing premises will not be available long term and that there is a risk that significant upheaval and disturbance to services could occur if landlords decide to not renew leases.”
“The charity has not renewed its charity status with the Revenue Commissioners for 2016. This means that it may not continue to be exempt from Corporation Tax in 2016…”
Finance and Payroll
“The charity has no finance function. There is no Chief Financial Officer, Financial Controller or any individuals who formal finance or accountancy training. Financial management of the organisation appears to have been run by the former CEO (who also had no formal finance or accountancy training)….. and the financial operation of the charity is chaotic”
“Payroll is sporadic, regularly late and significant arrears is allowed to build up.” All wage categories “… are currently in arrears with some contractors in arrears since April 2016.”
“The risk of contractors or employees leaving the organisation due to non-payment of wages alone …cannot be underestimated.”
“There is no client management system in operation of counselling sessions. Therefore, the charity has no way of centrally managing counselling, understanding trends, planning for future demand or analysing usage of the resources and facilities it makes available.”
“There is no control around cash donations which appear to be simply posted to the head office in Celbridge….I have conducted a preliminary review and cannot locate any records of cash donations being logged at Celbridge and some staff advise me that cash was posted to the office in Celbridge both by the staff themselves and donors. It appears that many events occurred that resulted in cash donations (ranging from individual counselling sessions to large events) and the process around this is unclear.”
Possible Tax Liabilities
“The Revenue Commissioners have indicated that they are undertaking an audit of the charity in July 2016. Given the poor financial structures and practices historically there is a likelihood that the Revenue Commissioners may conclude that tax, interest and penalties are due in excess of the existing demand for €63,000.”
Non-Payment for Critical Services
“Following my appointment as interim CEO I have become exceptionally concerned at the practice of non- payment of bills for critical services. For example, there are significant arrears in relation to rent, staff wages, contractor payments and phone lines for the helpline. The suspension of any of these services would render the services undeliverable yet there seems to have been an acceptance by the former CEO to allow these matters drift into arrears and risk the cessation of services or only dealing with the matter at the last minute.”
“The standards of Governance at board level are utterly inadequate for the proper functioning of the charity. At a minimum the board should urgently work to implement The Governance Code for Community and Voluntary Organisations”
Contract with the HSE
“Console contracted with the HSE for the provision of various services. I have estimated that these services cost between €1.2m – €1.6m per annum. The HSE are currently paying Console, as per their SLA, c€700,000 per annum. It is unclear whether Console ever undertook an exercise to identify or seek the full cost from the HSE of the provision of these services or whether they were required to subsidise these services from public donations.
Similarly, it is unclear if the HSE ever sought clarification or evidence of the actual running costs of the service for which they contacted. This is of particular importance given the recent audit conducted by the HSE of Console.”
“The revelations in Prime Time and the HSE report along with subsequent media coverage has caused significant damage to Console. The HSE’s lack of decisive action has, irrespective of what happens to Console as an entity, placed the services in jeopardy.”
“I recommend the Board of Directors proceeds to liquidate the charity immediately, write to the Charity Regulatory Authority and the Revenue Commissioners seeking removal as a charity from their respective registers.”