Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Questions (275)

Frank O'Rourke

Question:

275. Deputy Frank O'Rourke asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the NGO to which allegations (details supplied) pertained; the action being taken to recover the funds; the process or procedure put in place to ensure such alleged misuse of public funds does not recur at this body and other public bodies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29150/19]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

The background to this issue is that an anonymous letter was originally received by my Department in September 2017 alleging that in the past there had been financial mismanagement of grant funding amounting to approximately €88,000 to a non-governmental organisation.  Subsequent related allegations were made in 2018.

On foot of these allegations, the Department's Internal Audit Unit conducted an audit during 2018 into the allegations. The audit found that grant funding provided from Cosc, the National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence, based in my Department had been used to supplement funding provided to this organisation from other sources to fund other work not coming under Cosc's remit. This irregularity was found to have arisen due to lax financial controls in the organisation in question. The audit did not find any evidence of any fraudulent activity.

On foot of the audit's findings, the Department is currently engaged in a process to resolve the issues raised by the internal audit report. The process includes the engagement of suitably qualified external resources by the Department to advise on future action. Once this independent analysis has been received, which is expected during the third quarter of this year, a prompt decision will be taken by the Department on how to proceed regarding these matters. The outcome will be notified to the Public Accounts Committee.

The Public Accounts Committee was advised in April that the name of the organisation in question is not being put in the public domain. The Committee was advised that the reason for this is firstly to protect the integrity of the process currently underway, but also to protect the organisation's clients from being potentially exposed otherwise to media attention and speculation not of their making, which would detract from the ongoing sensitive work being undertaken with them and on their behalf.

I can advise the Deputy that, in its management and accountability for grants of this nature provided from exchequer funds, my Department adheres to the relevant Directive in place from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, which is applicable to all Government Departments in governing such funding.  This includes service level agreements with such organisations, periodic reporting on expenditure and periodic auditing of organisations.

Furthermore, the Secretary General of my Department, in his capacity as Accounting Officer for my Department's Vote, reports formally to the Comptroller and Auditor General and the Public Accounts Committee under the standard processes which are in place for the reporting on all Government expenditure.